Museum of Recent History - Celje

Tanja Roženbergar Šega

curator for ethnology
Tone Kregar
curator for history
Dušan Kramberger
architectural designer

Museum of Recent History Celje

Prešernova 17, 3000 Celje, Slovenia

www.muzej-nz-ce.si

Living in Celje

Museum of Recent History Celje is a regional history museum. It collects, stores, explores, exhibits and presents the 20th century history of Celje and the surrounding area. The diversity of its topics from everyday life has helped it form its own identity and turned it into a complex museum.
It was founded as the Museum of Revolution in 1963. In the early 1980s the museum began to expand its collections and to include the collecting and research of life after 1945. This was a difficult time: independent Slovenia began to emerge, while because of the new collection policy, the museum had to find a new place in the local community. During this period, the number of visitors to the museum plummeted, as a consequence of inadequate programmes and the general social climate and transition. New collections were added to the old ones, which spoke of the history and tradition of the Celje region throughout the 20th century. Accordingly, the expert team changed and expanded, as well. The museum was joined by ideologically unburdened young historians and an ethnologist who introduced urban ethnology as one of the areas of museum work.
Because of its new and expanded mission, the museum's name was formally changed from the Museum of the Revolution to the Museum of Recent History in 1991.
The first idea about a new, topically and technically fresh and modern permanent museum exhibition dates from 1991, but the concrete and systematic work on the idea began in 1996. A creative group consisting of four historians and an ethnologist was formed; the group began to prepare a script of the exhibition.
At the same time, expeditious fieldwork took place - documentation of material, collecting museum objects for the purposes of the new exhibition. It was due to a well-organized group of co-workers conducting fieldwork that we managed to collect all documents, statements, objects needed for our permanent exhibition in such a short time.
Our goal was clear: to mount a high-quality museum exhibition that would be based on and would build on the knowledge and rules of the individual disciplines involved, particularly history and ethnology. At the same time, the exhibition had to be both visually and topically attractive for visitors of all ages, with a special focus on youth. For this reason, we paid special attention to architectural and design aspects of the exhibition. The content was dictated by greatly limiting the conventional political/historical approach; instead we focused on social and cultural history and the history of everyday life.
The museological concept and the script for the permanent exhibition, covering the content and architectural, technical and artistic aspects of the exhibition, was finalised in 1998. In the same year the project was presented to the public through a trial small-scale exhibition of a part of the future permanent exhibition: the milliner's workshop. In this way we carried out a preliminary evaluation and by analysing it we learned about the positive and negative aspects of the formed museological concept.
The permanent exhibition opened on 27 March 2000.
By employing the concept of two different museological approaches we tried to satisfy the needs of as many visitors as possible; those who prefer a museum in which objects are safely stored in showcases, as well as those who enjoy ambience exhibitions and, besides only looking at the past, they also relive it. Thus our exhibition presents a museum object in two ways - as an independent exhibit and as an object which retains its function as a part of museological ls"natural environment'.
On the first floor we follow a chronological overview of 20th century history of Celje and its population through a "Diary of Three Generations". Emphasis is laid on exhibits that are arranged into individual sets. They illustrate selected segments of history and complement diary entries by representatives of three different generations.
A fascinating although shattering milestone is an original cattle wagon, exhibited on the first floor. As an exhibit, it symbolises the period of Second World War and the Nazi occupation, which is represented inside the wagon.
On the second floor, visitors can take a "Stroll Around Town" and experience the past in the ambience exhibition of "Crafts Street": individual workshops, a market and a middle class home. The life of labourers is presented through the products of the Celje factories from the museum's collections. In this way, the products are returned to their natural environment, although in a museum, where their authentic purpose and message come back to life.
We adopted an integrated approach and designed a rich additional museum offer, which complements the exhibition. It includes new museum souvenirs, regular programme activities of various kinds intended for a wide range of audience, guest appearances, demonstrations, round tables and presentations. Topics connected with the exhibition are discussed at evening events for experts and the public in the museum cafeacute;. So our museum is never silent, a quiet bustle of activity always remains.
But such a comprehensive project could not have been carried out without the assistance and the creativity of various contractors. Here, we must mention the cooperation between curators as authors of the content and the designer who attempted to present the exhibition's content in space in a way that would be as friendly and attractive to the visitor as possible.
This cooperation was further expanded by sound, light and music technicians, who added the necessary dynamism and fullness to the exhibition. The topics are presented through selected photographic and film material, including video and computers, and through a documentary film made specifically for the exhibition. An important part of the work was performed in restoration workshops, where the museum's technical staff worked with great dedication and creativity.
We are extremely pleased with the response to the exhibition. It proves that we are headed in the right direction. Since its opening in 2000 untill today the exhibition Living in Celje had almost 26.000 visitors.
Recognition of our work are also awards we received: the Valvasor award, the most notable museum award in Slovenia, and a nomination for the prestigious award EMYA (European Museum of the Year Award).
The museum's numerous and highly varied activities make it one of the most dynamic in Slovenia. We are particularly proud of the fact that it has become an integral part of the local environment. This is clearly evident from the statistics of the visitors that come to the museum from the entire country. In 2000 it was the second most frequently visited museum in Slovenia.