Saturday 18 November 2023




National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park House, Gortnafolla, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, F23 HY31


Free admission. Booking required.

Artists Sharon Whooley and Tess Leak will discuss the Museum of Birds and Beasts, a project that took place in community hospitals across West Cork, at a talk in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life. The artists will explore how storytelling can play a vital role in the wellbeing of older residents.

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.

Find out how the National Museum’s handling collection played a part in sparking lively stories and conversations to create an exhibition and book.

The talk takes place on Saturday, 18 November at 3pm. Admission is free but booking is required. Telephone the bookings office on +353 94 90 31751 or book by email:

Museum of Birds and Beasts
The Museum of Birds and Beasts was co-created by Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley with the residents of five community hospitals in West Cork: Castletownbere, Dunmanway, Schull and Skibbereen Community Hospitals and St Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital.

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.

The project was funded by an Arts Council of Ireland Arts Participation Project Award and delivered through the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork.


Tess Leak is an artist and musician who has been working with the Arts for Health Programme in West Cork since 2010. She is a graduate of the BA in Visual Art on Sherkin Island and The Curious School of Puppetry in London. In 2020, she created the Museum of Song Postal Project in collaboration with artist Sharon Whooley which was delivered to healthcare settings as a response to the isolation of participants during the pandemic.

In 2019, Tess collaborated with a group of residents in Bantry General Hospital to create the puppetry-based performance Stories from the Well-Field which brought to life participants’ poems about childhood friendships. This was supported by an Arts Council Project Award and the documentation bursary. Tess is co-founder and curator of participatory projects Haiku Island Press, The Museum of Miniature and The Museum of Making and Mending and Mending.

Sharon Whooley is a filmmaker with Harvest Films who is based in Baltimore in Co. Cork with an interest in local history, oral history, heritage and legacy. She has worked as writer, producer and director on many documentaries and feature films since 2000.

She has also worked with Tess Leak on the Museum of Song, a song collecting project with older people in West Cork, funded by Cork County Council and Creative Ireland, and The Museum of Birds and Beasts in collaboration with the Museum of Country Life and the National Folklore Collection, an Arts Council of Ireland Project Award recipient.


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