Sergej Mašera Maritime Museum of Piran

Flavio Bonin


The Sergej Mašera Maritime Museum of Piran

Cankarjevo nabrežje 3, SI-6330 Piran, Slovenija

Pomorski Muzej "Sergej Mascaron;era" Piran
The Sergej Mascaron;era Maritime Museum of Piran

The first collections of the Maritime Museum of Piran were exhibited in the Civic Museum of Piran, which was established in 1954. The study of the Slovene naval history and maritime tradition was one of the first activities of newly founded museum. In 1967 the Civic Museum was renamed the Sergej Mascaron;era Maritime Museum of Piran.
It is located at Cankarjevo nabrežje 3 in Piran. The building was raised in the middle of the 19th century in classical style, typical of the architecture in Piran during that period.
The Museum is a collection and study of the maritime past of the Slovene coast, Slovene naval history and connected economic activities. It contains an archaeological collection, a maritime collection, an art-history collection and an anthropological study and collection of items used in fishing.
The museum also includes a rich library, containing nearly 14,000 books.

Salt-Pans Museum in Sečovlje
The need to set up the Museum of salt-making close to Piran was expressed almost 40 years ago. In the 1960's, Dr. Miroslav Pahor, the former Head of the Maritime Museum, and his colleagues thoroughly studied the Fontanigge and Lucija salinas. In 1963, together with Tatjana Poberaj, he published a book, "The Old Salt-pans of Piran."
The Fontanigge salt-pans were soon abandoned. The Lucija pans were destroyed and a marina was built. For an easier access, Dr. Pahor wished to set up the Museum at the Strunjan salt-pans.
In 1984/85, an inventory of the Sečovlje salinas cultural heritage was made by ethnologist Zora Žagar (MMP) and Mojca Ravnik (IIPCH).
On the basis of some new research, it was decided that the Museum of Salt-making was to be set up in the Fontanigge basin and not in Strunjan. In spite of the fact that the site is somewhat distant and that the access is difficult, it eventually proved to be the best choice, because the Museum is placed in situ, in more traditional setting.
This shows that a Museum is not made over a night, but requires years of work and reflection.

Co-operation between institutions and specialists
The 1984/85 inventory was also ideal opportunity to start a close co-operation between the two institutions. The IIPCH takes care of the fixed cultural and natural heritage, the MMP cares for the presentation of the movable cultural heritage.
When reconstructing the salina and the buildings, different experts from both institutions took part: ethnologists, architects, historians, technicians, etc.

Restoring the houses and the salt fields
The first phase of the project took place between 1989 and 1994. Two salt-pans houses with their environs and their appertaining salt fields and reservoir were reconstructed. The houses were rebuilt in original manner.
Thanks to the knowledge of the old salters, the salt- fields were restored in "old way". The salt is harvested on a daily basis in summer, the bottoms of the crystallisation pools are covered with a layer of "petola" and a traditional wind-driven pump lifts the water from one section to the other.

- A 10 to 20 mm thick crust - "carpet" on the bottom of the crystallizing pools "cavadins". It is based on a layer of gypsum and blue-green algae "Microcoleus corium". The petola is firm and allows the salters to walk in the pools wearing their wooden "taperini". It also prevents the salt from mixing with the clay, therefore the salt is white. Petola was introduced by salters from Pag Island already in the 14th century.

Defining the aims of the Museum
The basic aim of the Museum is conservation, protection and presentation of the ethnological and technical heritage of the "old pans". The Museum shows one of the characteristic "saltpans streets", and the way people lived and worked here 100 years ago. Through this, the Museum contributes to the conservation and the revival of this age-old activity, not to lose the precious knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation for many centuries. The Museum also carries out pedagogical and research activities related to the rich cultural and natural heritage of the area. Practical courses in salt-making are also made.

Salt-Pans Museum in the Landscape Park of the Sečovlje Salt-Pans, Piran
(European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards)

Cultural Landscapes
For the exemplary and sensitive revitalisation of a cultural landscape, including the restitution of facilities for traditional salt production technology, architectural restoration, and educational activities, all in close harmony with the natural environment.
Part of the ls"Sergej Masera' Maritime Museum in Piran, the Landscape Park of the Sečovlje Salt-Pans provides testimony to the unique natural and cultural heritage of traditional salt-winning technology. The earliest written record of these salt-pans dates from the 13th century when they were taken over by the Venetian Republic; later additions were the medieval salt-pans of Fontanigge in the south and Lera in the north. Salt production ceased in 1967, but two windmills, since nominated for technical heritage, continued to extract ls"heavy water' from one of the basins. Ten years ago the entire area, including numerous buildings, channels, basins and pools, was declared a landscape park and in 2001, the Salt-Pans Museum was granted cultural monument classification in recognition of the importance of its architectural, technical, natural and ethnological heritage. It is one of the last locations on the Mediterranean where salt making follows traditional techniques, assisted only by the sun, wind and sweat.
The long term vision of the Salt-Pans Landscape Park is oriented first and foremost in restoration works, which will, in the form of traditional salt making activities, help to preserve the existing ethnological heritage. The intention is to offer summer schools in nature to schoolchildren, as well as practical experience and research work for Slovenian and foreign students through international voluntary working camps, thus generating Europe-wide interest in the salt-pans preservation.


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