The Ethnographic Museum of Split was founded in 1910 as the first museum of ethnography in Croatia. In the course of its history seven permanent, that is long-term exhibitions were mounted. In 1910 and 1919 they were organized in different school buildings.In 1924 the Museum moved into the former Town Hall - the building originating from the 14th century and reconstructed in neo-Gothic style in the 19th century. The same building still houses the Museum galleries. The permanent display was changed in 1934, 1946 and again in 1965. It was closed in 1989 and after that the space was used for temporary exhibitions and as a working storage facility. Despite the fact that the space of the former Town Hall is quite inadequate for museum galleries, the seventh long-term exhibition has been mounted in order to satisfy the needs of the public, that is, to provide access to the Museum''s treasures. It opened to the public in March 2001.
Owing to the limitations of space, the exhibition focuses on the region of Dalmatia only, although the Museum''s holdings include ethnographic artefacts from all parts of
Croatia and some neighbouring countries.
The background of the decision to mount a new permanent display should be illuminated.Namely, the local authorities of Split, or certain influential individuals, made the uncompromising decision to reassign the building to a different purpose. At the same time no assurances were given to the Museum, other than empty promises, that a new adequate building would be provided within a reasonable time. With the pressure growing stronger, on Christmas 2000 the director of the Museum announced to the staff that the designing of a new permanent display would begin after the holidays.This was supposed to put an end to all discussions about the Museum leaving this building, with no new premises available.
This is precisely what happened.With the mounting of the Museum's permanent display, the value of the building increased. The display also opened the door of the Museum to the public,making it impossible for anyone to work quietly on the removal of the Museum from the building.
Preparations for the mounting of the seventh permanent display started in the mid-January 2001 and the public opening ceremony took place at the end of March of the same year. In other words, it took the Museum staff (13 members altogether) just two and a half months to complete all works without any external assistance. The work included minor construction works in the interior, woodwork, painting, repairing and cleaning. All the designer work was also completed by the Museum staff on their own.
The Museum Guidebook was finished only a month after the permanent display had been opened, an achievement deserving attention in Croatian museo logical circles. The Guide in English was printed a month after the Croatian version, so that everything was ready before July, just in time for the tourist season.
There was no need to obtain authorization and consent for the permanent display from the Museum Council or any other competent body, since the display was not specifically funded by any institution or from any budget level. Neither the Croatian Ministry of Culture nor the County of Split - Dalmatia provided earmarked funds for this project. Only the local authorities participated in the expenses with the amount of 89,900.00 kuna (ca. EUR 12,000) and the rest was covered by general-purpose funds from the municipality and the county. Expenses were considerably reduced by charge-free efforts of the staff and the help from the friends of the Museum.
The overall expenses of the permanent display, including the printing of the Guidebook, in the year 2001 amounted to 134,832.28 kuna (ca. EUR 18,000). The entire project is a result of the teamwork of the Museum staff, who approached the mounting of the display having in mind high professsional and aesthetic criteria. Available financial resources being very moderate, staff members had to make great efforts to meet the criteria set in the early stage of work.
The project received the national award "Pavao Ritter Vitezovic" by the Croatian Museum Association for the year of 2002. The award was well earned by the staff of the EMS,who have been striving for professional excellence under rather difficult conditions and in a situation when hardly anyone cares for the Museum's development. All the progress achieved in 2001, as well as in the preceding and following years, is based on persistent efforts of underpaid experts.
The described achievements would be nothing remarkable under normal circumstances. However, when work takes place in an atmosphere of unwillingness of the society and the authorities to preserve their own roots, every improvement is a great success.
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