Tomáš Baťa Memorial marks 90 years with a new photo exhibit

The timely exhibit in Zlín will feature the stopped pocket watch of the shoe empire's founder. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 11.07.2023 10:30:00 (updated on 11.07.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Tomáš Baťa Memorial in Zlín will present the shoe empire founder’s watch, which stopped during his fatal plane crash in 1932, Zlín Mayor Jiří Korec said.

The exhibition, commemorating the 90th anniversary of the memorial's establishment, will open on July 12 and will run at least until the end of the year. The timepiece will be showcased in a specially designed display at the memorial, which is recognized as one of Zlín's most architecturally significant buildings.

"We believe it will be another gem that will further enhance the splendor of the memorial," Korec said.

Baťa's granddaughter Rosemarie Blyth-Baťa brought the watch back to Zlín from Toronto in 2018 and loaned it to the Tomáš Baťa Foundation so that it could eventually become part of the memorial. Tomáš Baťa had a very personal relationship with his watch as time was a supremely important quantity for him.  

The exhibition will also highlight the evolution of the functionalist-style memorial building, originally designed by architect František Lýdie Gahura.

"A display of 50 photographs reveals the transformation of both the exterior and interior of the building. In the 1950s, extensions were added to the exterior, as Tomáš Baťa and his legacy were compelled to be forgotten after World War II," Vladimíra Horňáková, the exhibition author, said during a press briefing.

In the 1950s, the site was renovated to accommodate the Zlín Philharmonic Orchestra and the regional art gallery. A few years ago, the Town Hall started to restore the building to its original form and purpose. Subsequently, a model of the Junkers F 13 aircraft, in which Baťa tragically perished, was included in the memorial.

Family documents to be digitized

After Tomáš Baťa's demise, his half-brother Jan Antonín Baťa assumed control of the shoe empire. Yesterday, John Nash, Jan Antonín Baťa's grandson, paid a visit to the Memorial. Nash hinted at plans to digitize the Jan Antonín Baťa archive, which reportedly consists of approximately 300,000 pages of documents.

"The oldest documents date back to 1920," Nash disclosed to reporters. Alongside business-related materials, the archive contains letters exchanged between Tomáš Baťa and Jan Antonín Baťa during the latter's stay in the United States.

Nash revealed that the Baťa archive is currently housed in the United States. However, the Zlín municipality aims to relocate it to Zlín. Korec affirmed that negotiations will take place with the family of Jan Antonín Baťa and the National Technical Museum, which may collaborate on the preservation and digitization of selected documents.

Baťa now sells over 150 million pairs of shoes annually and operates more than 5,300 shops in over 70 countries across five continents.

"This is undeniably a unique endeavor," Korec emphasized, adding that the Zlín villa of Jan Antonín Baťa would serve as an appropriate location for the original documents or their copies in the future. Presently, the villa houses the regional studio of Czech Radio in Zlín.

Popularizer of the shoe store concept

Tomáš Baťa founded Baťa Shoes in 1894. He revolutionized the industry by introducing mass production techniques, implementing mechanization, and prioritizing efficient distribution channels. These strategies enabled Bata Shoes to offer affordable footwear to a wide range of consumers, transforming the company into a household name around the world.

The company pioneered advancements such as the development of the Baťa System, which introduced various shoe sizes and widths to ensure a better fit for customers. Baťa Shoes also played a significant role in popularizing the concept of shoe stores.

Just before the outset of World War II, Baťa relocated its Jewish employees to its facilities in other countries to protect them from persecution. The parents of playwright Tom Stoppard were among the employees sent to Singapore, for example.

Baťa Shoe factories in Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries were nationalized in the communist era. The company first relocated its headquarters for its remaining international factories to Britain. The company’s world headquarters is currently in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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