As mentioned in a previous post, our trip to Mayo coincided with Heritage Week. I’m really interested in our Heritage so I quickly scoured the Heritage Week website and booklet to see what would be on in and around Westport. One event immediately caught my interest. The National Museum of Country Life at Turlough was inviting members of the public to “tour behind the scenes, see and hear about some of the exciting and puzzling discoveries uncovered in the Museum’s collections.”
I think this was made for me, having just finished a Masters of Library and Information Studies and being fascinated by our heritage. The date and timing also meant that this was the perfect event to finish our week away on the way home. Before the tour kicked off we had a good look around the Museum as we had never visited before. The exhibits focus on the traditional way of life in Ireland and I am very pleased to say that knitting featured, but more on that in a further post.
As part of the tour the group of around 20 of us were taken into the back of the Museum to see where all the objects are stored. It was absolutely fascinating. The Documentation Officer who showed us around explained that they were finishing a stock take of all their objects, creating an online catalogue that would then be made available to the public. It was great to be able to ask about cataloguing standards used, the collection development and acquisitions policy and their preservation policy.
The Documentation Officer said that they use a museum cataloguing standard, that they actively seek objects where there is a gap in the collection and accept donations based on the age and rarity of the object. He also described how objects are deep frozen when they arrive on site to kill any potential insects/mites/bacteria. He described how preservation is carried out where necessary but that objects are not restored. They are kept in the condition they arrive in, unless they are likely to deteriorate.
He also described how they put exhibitions together, linking objects that are interesting or come with an interesting story. They were in the planning stages of an exhibition of the history of the police in Ireland and we got to see close up some of the objects that would be displayed. We also got to see a selection of sliotars and hurleys from the Museum’s collection that are going to be used in an exhibition of sport.
The Museum are considering running similar tours in the future and I certainly hope they do, as for me, it was absolutely fascinating to get to see behind the scenes. And if you happen to be passing Turlough I highly recommend you pop in to the museum as the exhibitions are really beautiful (and it’s free!).