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Folklore Museum
Old Trades & Crafts
by Guido Landfranco
We usually apply the term folklore to embrace popular oral traditions, which include legends, tales, proverbs and idioms, superstitions, pastimes, song and dance and a multitude of other aspects linked to devotions and calendar manifestations. But it also deals with the basic phases of life, as birth, marriage, death, with the relevant customs. Domestic work, numerous trades and crafts with all their tools and gadgets, food, costume and home, keep daily life going, and these therefore also form part of the vast field of folklore.
The Museum at Gharb in Gozo opened in October 1996 and was the brainchild of Mr Silvio Felice. Although called a folklore museum, it cannot be expected to cover all these branches of study and although it exhibits odd items touching on diverse aspects, it concentrates mostly on the trades and crafts formerly prevalent in the Maltese islands. This museum is not a mere accumulation of tools and gadgets, but where possible, related items are exhibited together as in a particular workshop.
In present times, the term folklore tends again to be restricted to the oral aspects of popular activities, and the rest would find a niche in the more modern concepts of ethnography and anthropology.
One should also mention here that the concept of the Victorian style of museum is changing. The present trend is to actively involve museum visitors in the purpose of the exhibits, by utilising audio-visual and hands-on material. With regard to old trades and crafts, some countries are developing walk-through offered for sale. This not only requires careful planning but a capital outlay and continued maintenance. The whole project would not only be a living museum with active visitor participation, but will also preserve the old crafts against the evolving tide of progress.
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