The world-famous Bata Shoe Museum, in the heart of Toronto, welcomed its one millionth visitor this week. Ernie and Winsome Nunn from Australia were greeted by museum founder-chairperson Sonja Bata and others when the couple entered the premises.
Sonja Bata, the widow of Thomas Bata who died early this month at the age of 93, said: "We are extremely excited to be reaching this wonderful milestone. This success speaks volumes of the Bata Shoe Museum's contribution to Toronto and other countries".
Nunn, a retired chemistry professor, and his wife who are currently on a world trip were taken aback when they were told that they were the special guests of the museum. The couple got a life-long family membership of the museum, as well as a large gift basket and vouchers for new shoes. They were also given an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the museum.
The four-storeyed museum exhibits more than 10,000 pairs of rare shoes, collected by the Bata couple since 1940s when Thomas Bata took over the company after his father's death. To house their growing collection, the couple first established the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation in 1979.
In 1995, they opened the museum with four impressive galleries, displaying Chinese bound foot shoes, ancient Egyptian sandals, chestnut-crushing clogs and beautiful platforms. The semi-permanent exhibition "All About Shoes" tracks 4,500-year history of shoe-making and has a collection of 20th-century celebrity shoes. These include diamond-studded slippers of the Nizam of Hyderabad, worth $140,000, and pony-skin boots of Picasso.
The 114-year-old Bata Shoe Company, which was established by Thomas Bata's father in the then Czechoslovakia in 1894, operates in more than 50 countries, claiming to serve one million customers globally each day. It employs over 40,000 people around the world.