The Museum of Birds and Beasts has been co-created by Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley with the residents of five community hospitals in West Cork. The artists collaborated with the Museum of Country Life, the National Folklore Collection and master basket maker Joe Hogan, exploring the folklore and artefacts from these remarkable national collections to draw on participants’ experiences of working and living in connection with the natural world.
The exhibition at Working Artists Studio in Ballydehob will include photographs from the National Folklore Collection, artefacts from the Museum of Country Life and handmade nests by Joe Hogan.
‘A museum should work in its capacity to reveal the humanity of individuals… In museums we have History, but what we need are stories.’ – Orhan Pamuk.
The artists visited the hospitals with items from the Museum of Country Life’s handling collection; everything from donkey collars and horse blankets to sugán ropes. These evocative, beautifully crafted objects sparked many lively conversations and the resulting collection of stories form the heart of the Museum of Birds and Beasts.
‘I had a horse called Kit when I was small on East Skeam island. When we bought her, we swam her over from Cunnamore point. Kit would do all the ploughing for setting potatoes. You’d first have to harrow the ground to break it up. On East Skeam you could hear a mouth organ being played on Heir Island.’ – Mary Dwyer.
‘Our museum-form projects become sites of inclusion, gathering a community’s collective and unique experiences. We were very inspired by the Schools’ Collection of notebooks which are part of the National Folklore Collection at UCD (duchas.ie). These were compiled by pupils from 5,000 primary schools in the Irish Free State between 1937 and 1939 and were an unquantifiable resource for us, full of fascinating animal and bird stories and cures. The collection at the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar was another wonderfully inspiring place, full to the rafters of items and artefacts to do with rural life in Ireland.’ – Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley
Joe Hogan’s baskets and hand made nests have both a familiarity and otherness that resonated with the artists:
‘My work is prompted by a desire to develop a deeper connection to the natural world – I want to evoke some of the feelings of joy and wonder which might accompany the finding of nests in the wild.’
The official opening of the exhibition and book launch will take place on Friday 14 July at 5pm.
The Museum of Birds and Beasts project was funded by an Arts Council of Ireland Arts Participation Project Award. It is delivered through the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork at Castletownbere, Dunmanway, Schull and Skibbereen Community Hospitals and St. Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital.
Arts for Health is based in West Cork and provides a managed arts programme for older people in healthcare settings. The partners are Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Cork County Council, Cork Education & Training Board and Cork Kerry Community Healthcare. artsforhealthwestcork.com