Ethnography Department

The cultural space is the essence of the expression and description of an ethnos (people) or some of its parts (a community determined by territory, age, professional interest). Thus, it constitutes the cogent contents of ethnology and anthropology, which, as the point of departure of its interests, more intimately than other humanities, focus on man. The richness of the culturological diversity on the territory of Primorsko-Goranska County which encompasses the Croatian Littoral with the pertaining islands and Gorski Kotar, is a live mosaic of contradictory, incompatible, culturological elements which are surprisingly heterogeneous for such a small space. The ethnographic picture is colorful, on common days and feast days, in rural and urban areas, from the material as much as virtual (spiritual and social) points of view, in the rhythm of every day and those special, feast days, which serve as accentuations on the frontiers and the seminal points of the annual and life cycles which give them meaning. Perhaps nowhere else on the Croatian territory do such a distinct contrast and clash exist, such a restless and irreconcilable watershed of the configuration, climate, phenomena, materials and thoughts resulting in myriad forms, manners, interpretation and a special philosophy of survival. This space, regardless of the natural and administrative divisions, has always lived in touch with its parts, in a symbiosis.
The ethnographic exhibits contained in the Museum’s collection and the intangible treasury of the spirit of the people are part of the collective memory which in a transparent way suggests a three-dimensional mode of living. At the end, the conclusion is a uniqueness of sorts – a phenomenon of space and people.
The Department was established in 19561 with the aim of collecting and interpreting materials of ethnological character and content encompassing the territory of the Croatian Littoral with the pertaining islands of Krk, Cres, Unije, Susak, Ilovik and Rab, as well as Gorski Kotar. The bulk of the holdings are exhibits donated to the Sušak City Museum which had later become the Museum of the Croatian Littoral in Rijeka. The holdings encompass several collections of exhibits of material culture recognized in this field including the spiritual tradition such as beliefs and superstitions, and social culture based on societal relations. The holdings are planned as a set of developing collections and, if needed, are complemented by new collections. They date from the period of the 18th-20th century. The inventory list of the Sušak City Museum from 1937 included a folk costume from Dubašnica and a women’s folk costume.2 In 1945, among the items belonging to the Müller family, there were also two folk costumes.3
It is not accidental that the first exhibits were indeed folk costumes. For a long time, the costumes were presented as the most representative part of the folk activity and art, as such having earned a position of prominence in ethnological presentations. More recently, such an understanding has radically changed. On the ground floor of the Museum of the Croatian Littoral at Trsat, next to the archaeology and numismatic collections, there were also two rooms filled with ethnographic material, such as folk costumes from Krk and Istria, as well as a typical Istrian kitchen from the 18th century.4
Deeds of donation mention a dozen donors with the pertaining lists of donated exhibits. Some of the donors were Zora Stipanović (Kostrena, 1945), Marija Pezelj (Urinj, 1946), Olga Manasteriotti (Urinj, 1946), Valerija Medanić (Rijeka, 1947), Milka Martelanc (Volosko, Opatija, 1948), Marija Matković (Karlobag, 1949), Dr. Ante Kamenarović, exhibits from the Peršić house (Lovran, 1952), and others.
To this day, the list of donors has become long.
The inventory registers of the People’s Museum list 708 ethnographic exhibits. At the same time, methods of fieldwork and systematic collection of exhibits were adopted. In 1967, ethnologist Željko Barbalić took on his position with the Museum. The permanent ethnographic display was opened on 21 March 1988. The author was the Department ethnologist Željko Barbalić. The display was based on the idea of work as human existence. The thematic units included: agriculture and livestock raising as primary activities, followed by the types of transport, and fisheries, olive growing, and viticulture as economic activities typical for the Mediterranean. The display further encompassed handicrafts and trades such as wickerwork, cooperage, wood engraving and woodworking, coppersmith’s trade, pottery and weaving. Moreover, it included the house and the courtyard, a typology of houses and auxiliary facilities, architectural elements and materials, furniture, and a hearth with all the tools which were used around it. The display concluded with folk costumes. The exhibits have been displayed in a space without showcases, with the exception of the folk costumes, and keys, accompanied by photographs which describe their everyday use. The display relates to the islands of Krk, Cres, Susak, Rab and Pag, the valley of Vinodol and its hinterland, the suburbs of Rijeka including the areas of Kastav and Grobnik, as well as Gorski Kotar and the border areas of Lika and Slovenia. Conceived in such a way, the display has removed all the barriers between the viewer and the exhibits, thus demystifying the latter.5
The Ethnography Department consists of six collections: pottery, textile, wood and metal, stone, miscellaneous and the Ethnographic Collection of the Island of Krk in Dobrinj. Four collections comprise exhibits classified on the basis of the material of which they were made, one collection comprises exhibits made of several different materials of which none is dominant in relation to the function of the item, while the last collection is located outside the Museum.

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