Lobster pot by Nigel Towse, part of The Museum of Birds and Beasts’ exhibition at County Hall. Photo: Kevin O’Farrell

An exhibition of country life

Cork County Council’s first exhibition of 2023 will open today, Thursday, in the LHQ Gallery at County Hall.

Co-created by artists Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley with the residents of 5 community hospitals in West Cork, ‘The Museum of Birds and Beasts’ exhibition will run until 23 February.

The hospitals taking part are Castletownbere, Dunmanway, Schull and Skibbereen Community Hospitals, as well as St Joseph’s Unit in Bantry General Hospital.

The project began in early spring 2022 with the artists’ research trip to the Museum of Country Life in Mayo where they were invited to choose 18 objects from the museums handling collection to bring into West Cork hospitals and share with the staff and residents.

The collection included a horse blanket and donkey harness both woven out of straw, and a lobster pot made out of heather.

One of the participants, Sheila Nagle, reminisced: “My father worked in Biggs’ in Bantry. The donkey would walk through the back door into the shop and up to the counter where my dad would give it sugar lumps before it walked out the front door.

“This would happen at the end of every working day, after the donkey had finished its deliveries.”

The exhibition will be launched by Clodagh Doyle, curator of the Museum of Country Life, Castlebar, Mayo.

Welcoming the launch, Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr Danny Collins said: “This exhibition is a celebration of the innovative arts and health work by Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley and also the ongoing Arts for Health programme in West Cork. The stories, museum artefacts and artworks will resonate with many and I would encourage all those with an interest in this area to visit the exhibition at LHQ Gallery.”

As part of the project, master basket maker Joe Hogan from Mayo visited Dunmanway Community Hospital and St Joseph’s Unit Bantry in May last year and created small panniers for donkeys. These panniers will be presented to the healthcare settings as part of ‘The Museum of Birds and Beasts’ project.

The project is delivered through the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork and is funded through an Arts Council of Ireland Project Award. The exhibition is supported by Cork County Council.

‘The Museum of Birds and Beasts’ exhibition opens at 6pm on today, 26th January, and continues until 23 February 2023.

The LHQ Gallery is open from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays.