The Museu do Traje, or Costume Museum, in São Brás de Alportel is quite a fascinating place. Housed in a beautiful nineteenth century palace, I was aware of it’s existence but had never before managed to be in the right place at exactly the right time. A cool, but sunny, Sunday afternoon proved just perfect. At 2.15pm a cheerful gentleman wielding a huge metal key unlocked the graceful gates and the voyage of discovery began.
Elaborate high ceilings and chandeliers stop me in my tracks. I’m not sure what I was expecting but the style and shape of the doorways pins an instant smile to my face. In the first small foyer an exhibition, ‘The Wheels of Time’, sets the scene. Beyond this I step into the fashion plates of an old world magazine. I know that my daughter would be in her element here, and try to capture some of the details for her.
In a darkened alcove I find two stunning Art Nouveau pieces. A corridor leads from here to a kitchen, laid out with local produce for sale.
But for me the detail that I most enjoy is the way that the shutters fold open over the delicate glass panels above the doors. The sunlight through the windows makes those shadows sing. And don’t miss the keyhole, will you?
Just when I think that I’ve seen all the delights available and am about to step outside, the curator beckons me in some agitation. I have missed something crucial. You see, this isn’t only a costume museum. It is also the home of cork.
I’m led out of a side door and across to a large barn. A screen is suspended in the centre and at the push of a button a film begins. It demonstrates the whole process of cork production, from the growth of the oaks, the periodic cutting of the bark, the boiling to kill tanins and the pressing and cutting into the final products. It is an incredible tribute to man’s ingenuity. Within the barn are a variety of displays. A huge press presides over a selection of harnesses and carriages. Outside, a pleasant garden offers more.
A modern auditorium has been added to the grounds and Sunday evenings host a programme of concerts. A jazz musician is setting up as I depart. In addition there are lessons in everything from making bobbin lace to bridge classes and choir throughout the week. It’s good to see the local community getting behind the upkeep of this lovely property. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking around with me and, for those who might be interested, I’ve enclosed a video telling a little more about the life of cork.
P.S If you’d like to know a little more about the history of the building take a look at Becky’s post. She managed some great research.