July 21, 2016 --For lovers of history or shoes, Temple University has a collection that will knock your socks off, a hidden gem in the middle of Center City.
Temple University's School of Podiatry created the collection 40 years ago for the Bicentennial Celebration, and it is a visual ode to footwear with shoes housed in cases and cases that line the school's corridors on 8th Street.
"That's the highest high heel that we have," says curator Barbara Williams as she shows the collection to a group of visitors. She is both tour guide and resident shoe expert.
"These I love," she says as she shows off famous shoes from ballets, Broadway and television, "these are Lucy's."
That's Lucille Ball, whose silk sandals sit next to Sally Struther's platforms, "These are Sally's from the second year of All in the Family," Williams explains.
Joan Rivers donated a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes. The collection also includes footwear from four first Ladies and a president.
"This is the Prez," says Williams pointing to a pair worn by President Ronald Reagan.
And then there are the athletes.
"These are my treasure," says Williams as she shows off the Nikes Dawn Staley wore when she won the Olympic Gold Medal in Athens.
You can see Bernie Parent's Stanley Cup skates, shoes from Joe Frazier, Dr. J, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Andre Agassi and Billie Jean King.
"You can also, if you're a tennis player, tell exactly how she served because the one toe is all messed up," jokes Williams.
And there are shoes from around the world.
"These are a couple thousand years old Egyptian burial sandals," says Williams who also tells the story behind a pair of hand-stitched men's wedding shoes from India, Chinese lotus shoes used in foot binding, and Victorian sandals considered quite naughty at the turn of the century.
"I really liked the shoes from places like Iraq or Tibet or just really unusual shoes you'd never see anywhere else," says Chinatown resident Sharon Foley who marveled at the enormous shoes made for a woman with gigantism and a pair of sky high Doc Marten platforms.
"They're a girl's size 7," Williams told the group, "and they're kind of fun."
Temple's Podiatry School is located at 8th and Race Streets.
Tours are Wednesdays and Fridays by appointment only, but they are free!
Contact curator Barbara Williams to schedule