Inside the Wardrobe - A ‘behind’ the scenes look at period costume at the Ulster Folk Museum

My name is Joanne Pollock and I am the co-ordinator of period costume at the Ulster Folk Museum. I have had a lifelong passion for embroidery and costume, graduating from Ulster University, at Belfast with a degree in Textiles. I came to work at Ulster Folk Museum as a visitor guide and since 2005 I have been responsible for the development of the period costume project at Cultra.

Since 2001 all visitor guides at Ulster Folk Museum have been required to wear period costume. Prior to this date visitor guides at the Museum wore a corporate uniform; this is still in use today but only in a few locations. As the open air museum at Cultra portrays daily life in Ulster of the early 1900s, so the costume reflects everyday wear for men and women in a variety of locations and activities.

All costume items worn by visitor guide staff at Cultra are based on real examples from the museum’s own collections of dress and accessories. I work closely with the museum’s cCurator of costume and textiles, Valerie Wilson, to study selected examples from the archives, with a view to creating realistic copies for the period costume ‘wardrobe’. You might be surprised to learn just what is involved in the study of, the making of, and the care of over 3000 items of period costume for front facing staff at Ulster Folk Museum in the course of an average year.

I get plenty of variety in my job, all involving costume and textiles. I even sometimes wear period costume myself, for instance I have been dressed in style to give a practical demonstration of hat trimming in the very appropriate surroundings of the museum’s early 1900s draper’s shop.

Image: Joanne in the Draper's Shop
Joanne in the Draper's Shop
Image: Costume preparation for a publicity photoshoot.
Costume preparation for a publicity photoshoot.