Folklife Studio

Discover how the Folklife Studio treats social history and folk art objects.

The Folklife Conservation Studio based in the Museum of Country Life, Castlebar, Co. Mayo is responsible for the long-term preservation and active conservation of diverse collections dating from the end of the Great Famine in the 1840s onwards. These objects can vary in size tremendously from a sewing needle to a fire engine. The range of materials from which the collections are made is extensive, including natural organic materials such as wood, leather and textiles, as well as metal objects and other inorganic materials such as stone, ceramic and glass. More modern synthetic materials of rubber, Bakelite and other plastics are well represented in the Folklife collections and indeed most objects are composite being made up of more than one material.  The collections also include works of art on paper as well as some oil paintings and photographs.

Custom made archival envelope containing a pen and ink drawing

Safe housing is provided for a pen and ink drawing in an envelope made from acid free archival grade materials

Preventive Conservation forms a major part of the work of the Folklife Conservation Studio. Preventive conservation concerns itself with reducing the need for conservation treatments by ensuring that collections are kept in clean and stable environments.

Flight case packed with a number of framed works of art for transport to a loan exhibition venue

Objects on the move, whether new acquisitions, incoming or outgoing exhibitions loans or being transferred between museum sites are monitored closely by carrying out regular conditions surveys - this includes looking for signs of damage or insect activity (furniture beetle more commonly known as woodworm, clothes moth etc).  Objects with suspected insect infestations are, as a precaution, routinely frozen to kill any insects present.

The conservator is checking the building maintenance system to see the temperature and relative humidity values in a particular zone of the museum

Objects are stored and displayed using the appropriate inert and conservation grade materials and in the appropriate museum environment with correct temperature, relative humidity, and light level values as well as ensuring good housekeeping practises are in place by undertaking regular and tailored cleaning of the objects themselves and of the museum spaces.

Folklife transport collections on view in the Collection Rescource Centre


   Model roll-topped caravan - missing or broken parts of the hay rack are being replaced by reproductions made from balsa wood


Model roll-topped caravan - the hay rack after conservation - where repairs and replacement parts have been inpainted to colour match the original parts

In addition to examination and documentation of an object, remedial conservation treatments can include cleaning by both mechanical and chemical methods; consolidation (strengthening the objects’ fabric); or stabilization to improve the object's structural integrity – by replacing missing or broken parts and by gap-filling and in-painting or colour matching repairs.    

Model roll-topped caravan - after conservation

Roadside altar shrine during conservation - a broken cross from the apex is being reattached and is held in place with small clamps while the adhesive sets

Close up detail of the conservator laying flat paint flakes on the roof of the altar shrine after injecting behind them with adhesive


Conservation repair of a much damaged leather bicycle saddle in preparation for exhibition

Inpainting the conservation repair and support materials to match the colour of the original saddle leather