Cultural and historical department

The twenty-three collections of the Cultural History Department with a total of 7689 inventoried and analyzed exhibits comprise varied written records and artifacts which recount the historic development, lifestyle and cultural achievements of the residents of Rijeka and the region which falls under the sphere of activity of the Museum.
For centuries, the border on the Rje~ina River had determined the development of two cities, Rijeka on the right bank and Su{ak on the left. The economic, political and cultural development of Rijeka experienced in the second half of the 19th century, and the development of Su{ak in the early 20th century contributed to the establishment and growth of cultural institutions, among them the Museo Civico in Rijeka in 1893 and the City Museum at Su{ak in 1933.
The object which inspired the inception of the City Museum – Museo Civico, the goblet used by Emperor Joseph II, is at the same time the first exhibit of the Cultural History Department. Since the policy of acquisition of exhibits and the nature of the museum itself remained undefined at the beginning, the Museum began collecting by way of donations a variety of coins, medals, exotic items and natural history exhibits. It was only in the late 1880’s that the idea of establishing a native history museum crystallized. The museum’s main aim was to collect exhibits which related to Rijeka and reminded the residents of its past, customs and traditions.1 This was the beginning of the planned collection of exhibits significant for the cultural history.
As early as 1889, it was indicated that it would be beneficial to have an Industry (arts and crafts) Department, in addition to the Natural History Department and the Numismatic Department.2
The Department’s Collections greatly benefited from the acquisition of the estate of court counselor Cimiotti,3 and the bequest of Giovanni Kobler (three volumes of the manuscript Memorie della città di Fiume, copies of documents, 270 volumes and 130 files of various works, etc.).4
The greatest hindrance to the operations of the Museum ever since its establishment was the building in which it was accommodated. Only with the relocation of the Museo Civico to the mansion of Archduke Joseph, Villa Margherita, were the conditions fulfilled for the exhibits to be properly displayed and kept. The refurbishment took a long time. The systematization and refurbishment plan for the Museo Civico proposed in 1939 by Riccardo Gigante was finally adopted. According to this plan, the Archaeology Department was located on the ground floor; a formal hall for receptions in which representative exhibits were displayed was on the first floor, while the History Department with materials related to D’Annunzio and the Modern Art Department were on the second floor.5
Unlike the chaotic and yearlong process which accompanied the establishment of the Museo Civico in Rijeka, the aim of the Su{ak City Museum, as stipulated in its Statute, was defined at the very beginning. The aim was to collect and keep everything which related to the history of the city of Su{ak and its surroundings.6
Ever since the beginning, thus, the Museum had both the Natural History Department and the Cultural History Department. At that time, the collections were established which continue to exist even today within the framework of the Cultural History Department: Painting and Portrait Collection, collections of coatsof-arms, books, charters, documents, brochures and newspapers, seals and medals, numismatics, pottery, weapons, Roman antiques, folk costumes, maritime affairs, sailing ships and steamships, household appliances, various items and furniture and the reference library.7
The creation of a single museum institution resulting from the merger of the Rijeka and Su{ak museums after the Second World War, the merger of collections, human resources and premises allowed for a unified approach to the presentation of materials. Gradually, thanks to the care and effort of the curators, permanent and temporary exhibitions were set up.
The first postwar approach to exhibitions proposed by acting director Aleksandar Perc envisioned the setup of the exhibition of the development of Rijeka and a maritime exhibition8 in the Culture House in Rijeka and the exhibition of the Croatian Littoral at Trsat.9
On that occasion, Aleksandar Perc described the display of the Cultural History Department: The apartment of a Rijeka bourgeoisie family of the 19th century with exhibits such as furniture, paintings, chest, china cabinet and various small items are displayed in Room III. From there one enters the smaller Room IV where large size photographs of Rijeka from the 15th to the 18th/19th centuries, as well as several views of Rijeka and the surroundings from the 19th century are displayed. This material will be enlivened by paintings and a wooden sculpture, icons and the like which should serve as proof of the cultural level of Rijeka in that historic period. Room V will be used for the display of prehistory and Roman exhibits (finds) found on the territory of the city and the surrounding areas, as well as some stone objects dating from the early Gothic period (tablet with the depiction of a lion and a tendril, two pateras, and a fragment of a balustrade, all allegedly from the old parish church in Rijeka).10
Classicist wrought iron exhibits will be placed in the hallway.(…) The room which is presently used as office will be partitioned and possibly used for the display of the Rijeka violin maker Dr. Kresnik.11 The Croatian Littoral and its characteristic settlements are to be presented on large size photographs, including the interior of a typical littoral house, possibly ethnographic materials, remembrance of an important figure, and the historic development since the earliest time to the present with special attention paid to the People’s Liberation Struggle are to be displayed at Trsat.12 This approach was gradually complemented and to a large extent realized thanks to Miroslav Bla`i~evi} who was director of the Su{ak City Museum, later external consultant, restorer and one time director of the Museum of the Croatian Littoral. With systematic, dedicated and meticulous work, although with limited resources, until 1952 he succeeded to create the display of the Archaeology Collection, part of the Numismatic Collection, part of the Weapons Collection, Ethnography Collection, Sacral Art Collection, Style Furniture Collection, Heraldry Collection, Exotic Collection, People’s Liberation Struggle and People’s War of Liberation Collection, as well as the Kresnik Collection. Carefully recording each donation, working in house and in the field, and thanks to his restoration work, Miroslav Bla`i~evi} has left abundant records which greatly facilitates our work today.
The closure of the Vladimir [valba Vid Culture House in 1955, and the gradual freeing of space created the conditions for the realization of the permanent display. In 1961, the halls in the Palace were refurbished and in the course of 1962 paintings, prints, sculptures and applied art exhibits from the holdings of the Museum were displayed in them. The Exotic exhibition was opened as part of the permanent maritime history display on the second floor in 1964. The permanent display was expanded with the exhibitions Weapons Collection in 1977 and The Collection of Locks, Keys and Studs in 1978, prepared by Ljerka Ste~i} who had worked for years as the only curator in the Cultural History Department. Accompanying publications were published on that occasion. Additional curators were employed in the Museum in the 1970’s and 1980’s, which greatly facilitated the work. This made possible a more thorough study of exhibits and resulted in a larger number of exhibits whose authors or co-authors were the Department curators.
In the 1990’s, the exhibition and publishing activity intensified and catalogs of Museum’s collections were published, among them The Collection of Clocks and Watches, The Collection of Portraits and The Heraldry Collection. In the last decade of the 20th century, the focus was placed on the completion of the documentation and protection of exhibits. For the time being, the textile and pottery keeping facility has been equipped, and the equipment for the safekeeping of print plates, photographs and postcards was procured. Sets of furniture which are part of the permanent Cultural History Display on the first floor were restored within the framework of the restoration program.
In addition to the 19th century portraits, 13 paintings originating from the 16th to the 18th century were restored in cooperation with the Croatian Restoration Institute and with the funds secured by the City Administration Department of Culture of the City of Rijeka, Primorsko-Goranska County and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia. The paintings will be exhibited in the newly established Gallery of the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral. Department’s employees are actively involved in scientific research and expert collaboration with related institutions in Croatia as well as abroad. The dedication of curators Radmila Matej~i}, Milan Gali} and Goroslav O{tri} resulted in the creation of the separate Museum Collection of the Kastav Region. Moreover, Museum’s employees have co-authored the exhibition and authored the technical setup of the Permanent Display of Sacral Art in the church of St. Vitus.
The engagement of Department’s employees has also resulted in the establishment of museum collections in Bakar, Grobnik, Novi Vinodolski and Ba{ka on the island of Krk. In cooperation with the Rijeka Art Conservation Department of the Direction for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, materials were revised, inventory lists and documentation prepared for the City Museum in Bakar.
The holdings of the Cultural History Department play a crucial role in the study and illustration of topics relating to the history of Rijeka, Su{ak, the Croatian Littoral and the islands. The collections are, moreover, exhibited at numerous exhibitions organized by other museums such as the Croatian History Museum in Zagreb, People’s Museum and Gallery in Novi Vinodolski, Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, Rijeka City Museum and Civico Museo Revoltella in Trieste.
On this occasion, we would also like to recall the other curators whose work has contributed to the development of the Department and the preservation of the heritage which was entrusted to us. For various periods of time, the Department employed Neda Cvijanovi}, ur|ica Kru`i}, Radmila Matej~i}, Zdravka Emili, Milan Gali} and Bla`enka Vojvodi}.
In the course of the one hundred years of the Museum’s existence, the curators and the exhibits belonging to the oldest and largest department, the Cultural History Department, have played an important role in the realization of many planned programs. The Department, partly because of the diversity of its exhibits, has been a constant lead actor in the implementation of programs. Many unrealized projects are ahead of us, the largest being the new permanent display which requires full engagement, large financial and professional human resources. It is our hope that at least some of these projects will be implemented before the celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Museum.

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