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Subject: Footwear coverings

Footwear coverings

From: Helen Lloyd <helen.lloyd>
Date: Saturday, October 20, 2007
Katharine A. Untch <katy [at] argsf__com> writes

>An historic site recently asked me "who really uses those?" when
>referring to footwear coverings ("booties") sometimes used for
>visitors when touring historic buildings. So, I thought we might try
>finding out.  If you know of any sites using these protective foot
>coverings, could you let me know which sites?

Throughout Northern Europe and in Russia, it is common practice to
wear overshoes when visiting historic buildings with fine parquetry
floors; visitors are asked to wear felt slippers over their outdoor
shoes.  In the Middle East, on the Indian sub-continent and in SE
Asia, visitors to mosques, mausoleums and madrassas (religious
schools) are asked to remove their shoes and tie canvas overshoes
over their feet.  In Japan, everyone removes their outdoor shoes and
puts on house slippers whenever they enter domestic accommodation;
slippers for visitors are provided.

In National Trust houses regularly open to visitors (12 million
visitors annually to c.175 buildings in England, Wales and Northern
Ireland), house staff ask visitors wearing unsuitable, sharp-heeled
or muddy footwear to put on blue plastic overshoes.  On p.380 of The
National Trust Handbook for Members and Visitors 2007, in response
to FAQs about Conservation and Access, the National Trust advises:

    "What types of footwear are restricted?
    Any heel which covers an area smaller than a postage stamp can
    cause irreparable damage to floors, carpets and rush matting. We
    regret, therefore, that sharp-heeled shoes are not permitted.
    Plastic slippers are provided for visitors with unsuitable or
    muddy footwear, or alternative footwear is available for
    purchase.  Please remember that ridged soles trap grit and
    gravel, which scratch fine floors.  Boot-scrapers and brushes
    are readily available.  Overshoes may be provided at properties
    with vulnerable floors."

Plastic overshoes are issued to visitors free of charge; cases of
2000 can be bought for approx UK UKP40 (other types are more
expensive).  Appendices III and IV of The National Trust Manual of
Housekeeping list four types of overshoe and UK suppliers' contact
details.  For further information on the use of overshoes, see 'The
National Trust Manual of Housekeeping: the care of collections in
historic houses open to the public' (Elsevier, 2005), available from
<URL:> and <URL:>.

Helen Lloyd
Deputy Head Conservator and
Preventive Conservation Adviser (Housekeeping)
The National Trust
Kemble Drive
Swindon SN2 2NA
+44 1793 817767

                  Conservation DistList Instance 21:28
                 Distributed: Friday, October 26, 2007
                       Message Id: cdl-21-28-003
Received on Saturday, 20 October, 2007

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