The Folklore Museum is accommodated in a cluster of medieval houses in Bernardo de Opuo Street within the walls of the Citadel in Rabat, Gozo. It houses a wide range of exhibits depicting the domestic, rural and traditional ways of life in the agrarian economy of the Maltese Islands in centuries past. Both the collection and the museum building are of great interest, the latter being considered as an architectural gem in its own right.
The houses which accommodate the Folklore Museum, today interconnected, were probably built around the early 16th century. The architectural features betray some Sicilian and Catalan influences, and show knowledge of a sophisticated Late Gothic style. What is clear is that the houses belonged to wealthy families, as made evident by the fine architectural features on the façade. These houses were rehabilitated into a Folklore Museum in 1983.
The rustic domestic interiors are relatively plain, yet pleasant, and contrast sharply with the more delicate façades with their rounded doorways, double windows divided by a slender column, and a finely-carved stone frieze marking the intersection between the two floors. The houses are considered as an outstanding example of late medieval domestic architecture, and are the only remaining such examples in Gozo. Similar architectural gems may be found in Mdina and Birgu.
The exhibits on display on the ground floor levels of the Museum relate to rural trades and skills such as agriculture and stone-masonry. Here, one finds various traditional implements used in agriculture such as sickles, spades, winnowing forks, shovels and ploughs, together with a selection of grinding mills of various sizes, both manual and beast-driven. The latter occupies the centre of a large room, known as the mill room, and is an interesting feature in local domestic architecture of past centuries.
There are also traditional stone-dressing tools as well as a large selection of tools used by carpenters and blacksmiths. One can observe grain and liquid measures, as well as different types of weights and scales used in steelyards and by grocers. The display on the mezzanine level includes important local crafts such as lace-making and weaving, and is complemented by items related to the cotton industry such as a cotton gin and spinning wheel. Minor local crafts include book-binding.
The first floor, which used to be the living quarters, hosts an exhibition of items relating to hobbies such as hunting as well as the modeling of miniature churches, replete with religious accessories. An interesting ex-voto collection is another highlight which portrays bygone traditions. Part of the collection is devoted to the traditional fishing industry and includes a scale model of the Gozo boat with lateen sails, locally known as “id-dghajsa tal-latini”.
Source: Heritage Malta