Beady Pocket at the National Museum, Collins Barracks

The Traveller ‘Beady Pocket’ is a cultural garment that gives a lot of information about Traveller culture and identity.

The artist in residence at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, Róisín de Buitléar –  in collaboration with the Museum, Pavee Point and TravAct, Coolock recently worked with 22 women, Travellers and settled, to examine the culture associated with ‘Beady Pockets’ and look at ways of exploring contemporary responses to this intriguing object.

The Traveller ‘Beady Pocket’ served as a generous bag and useful holder for essential objects needed for a life on the road. Items such as a knife, money, jewellery and a needle and thread, hidden in the seam were common objects that were kept in the deep pockets.

Worn under clothing for added safety, the decorative pocket also served as a memory bag. The pockets were decorated with small buttons and beads which were exchanged between women, on leaving a site or moving on to a new location.

The project brought together a diverse group of women who worked in a collaborative way to discover more about the Beady Pocket and also to discover more about each others lives and experiences.  Sewing and talking allowed for many genuine exchanges to take place.

Research work was also undertaken and visitors to the project were able to bring unique perspectives on and to the The Beady Pocket.

The National Museum historical textile collection was also a great resource for the project as was material from the Museum’s handling collection. Museum curators and educators helped the group to investigate ideas on portable safekeeping of objects, secretive clothing, remembrance textiles  and pockets.

It is planned to continue the work of the project and hopefully present some of the work of the project in the near future.  Thanks to all the contributors, organisers and supporters.

Project Participants and Contributors

Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre:

Brigid Collins

Missy Collins

Sheila Reilly

Biddy Collins

Molly Collins

Caoimhe McCabe

TravAct, Coolock:

Winnie Mc Donagh

Kathleen Mc Donnell

Lisa Mc Donnell

Kathleen Ward

Margaret Mc Donagh

Mary Tyrell

Mary Collins

Bridgie Nevin

More participants:

Sheila Ahern

Sorcha Cullen

Millie Cullivan

Nikki Collier

Eithne Carey

Jean Doyle

Kate Hanlan

Patricia Kennedy

Kate Lennon

Róisín Murphy

Anne O Leary

Cyan King

One day visitors

Rozari Lynch

Maria Simmonds Gooding

Fiona Kerbey

National Museum of Ireland

Róisín de Buitléar – Artist in Residence

Aisling Dunne – NMI Documentation

Helen Beaumont – Education Outreach

Lorraine Comer – Head of Education