Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding

Kate Šikic Cubric

Director, Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding

Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding

Vladimira Nazora 7 22244 Betina Croatia

Betina, Croatia 

European Museum Forum / Silletto Prize 2018


Living the Tradition



Betina, in central Dalmatia on the island of Murter, is famous for its wooden shipbuilding craft and is also the only remaining centre for small wooden shipbuilding and in recent years has become a synonym for traditional shipbuilding.
Since the 1970’s, locals in Betina have had strong cultural motives to create an institution which would stand to inherit their rich shipbuilding history and absorb local knowledge of building wooden boats, especially the Gajeta. This realisation of their aspirations was finally achieved when the Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding opened. It began in 2011 with the forming of a civil association named Betina Gajeta 1740, and plans were immediately put in place to create the present day museum. The association was founded in order to preserve traditional and unique building knowledge of the Gajeta, or Betina Gajeta.  The council implemented the community’s dream to represent and communicate their art of shipbuilding, and innovate systems to include all related heritage. The Association brought their proposals to local authorities represented by the Municipality of Tisno. The Municipal Council Tisno agreed to establish a Museum, property was purchased, and a site established in which varying experts worked on permanent displays of Gajetas and the different processes involved in shipbuilding. The museum’s working group, together with Betina Gajeta 1740, collected items for the museum, recorded storytellings from shipbuilders, sailors, fishermen, farmers, ethnographers, historians and all local people willing to help. All items on display have been donated by local people, museum texts were derived from storytellings, and in all videos actors were local people who gladly participated in activities that preceded the opening of the museum.

The concept of the Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding, opened in 2015, consisted of two phases: the first phase of the project realization was related to the design of the museum building and the opening of the permanent exhibition. The second phase was the realization of the external part of the exhibition - the open-air museum. The indoors museum exhibition presents the principles of building small wooden boats and places them in the historical context over time, while the outdoors exhibition displays real-life functional boats in situ.



Museum Multimedia Room


The core of today's open-air museum was established by the boat owners themselves. After they renovated and fitted with sails their wooden boats and began competing in lateen sail regattas in the early 2000s, they themselves started to moor their boats in the northeast part of the harbor. Over the years, by unregistered rule, the boats in that part of the harbor would be moored according to their brand.

On 7 March 2019, the Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding was granted a concession to part of the local harbor. On the basis of the Agreement signed with the Šibenik-Knin County, the Museum has been granted a concession on maritime goods for the purpose of using the berths for the presentation of traditional wooden boats as museum exhibits.

Boats have their place in the harbor according to their brand, originality of construction, conservation, sails fitting and adherence to traditional materials and equipment. There are 43 boats berthed at the open-air museum. In the reserved area granted to the Museum, berthing rights are awarded to boats, not the owners. The open air exhibition was opened in June 2019.

Opening the museum only fuelled the local community and wooden boat owners to further contribute to the current cultural hive in Betina today. On the streets of Betina locals, led by museum staff, organise and participate in folklore demonstrations, sailing and rowing regattas, workshops, lectures, presentations, boat parades and many other cultural events with the aim to popularise traditional wooden boats, wooden shipbuilding and related cultural heritage. The museum has become a place where people spend their free time in creative workshops or presentations, but also a place where they can perform their own events.  



Entrance to the museum - scale model of bracera


A direct result of efforts is the increase in the number of newly built wooden boats along Šibenik region coastlines, and an increase in the number of repairs and reconstructions, all adding to the restoration and an increase in wooden boats keeping the culture alive and prevalent. Boat owners repair their boats regularly and a sense of pride can be seen in their ownership. Their boats can be seen in new folklore manifestations organised for tourists, and the making of wooden boats represent of the island’s cultural heritage and local identity. Owning a traditional wooden boat become popular. Many examples of new boat orders are by clients of maritime heritage, wooden boat lovers, and longtime guests to the island of Murter. This encouraging trend has all local shipyards full with new boat orders and repairs years in advance. The Ministry of culture of the  Republic of Croatia protects the knowledge of building a wooden boat in the traditional way, and this knowledge is still spread among our local shipbuilders. They are knowledge holders and active participants in the museum’s good work, but the museum serves them too in preserving an art which was also preserved by their ancestors for centuries; they too, in innovative modern ways, are passing their knowledge on. Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding perfectly illustrates the significance and importance of maritime and shipbuilding heritage in the development of the identity of the island Murter.

After years of voluntary work, today we can proudly say that to own a wooden boat is not just a commitment to the heritage and ancestors, but a step forward to the future. Today, the wooden boat is an identifying symbol representing the whole area where it comes from. If we consider the Mediterranean area, or Northern European seas, we can see that there are a growing amount of maritime manifestations and festivals which aim to promote and protect maritime and shipbuilding heritage. Sea and ship enthusiasts or admirers are increasing and their work and becoming prevalent today. Wooden boats are not relicts from the past and are part of our future as we move forward in new ways while respecting the old. The museum’s work in Betina presents a bright example, which is followed by other costal cities, not just in Croatia but beyond our shores. Betina Museum is a proud holder of the Silletto award, which the Museum received in 2018 from the European Museum Forum in the category ‘Museums and Communities’ for outstanding work and extraordinary commitment to social responsibility, being a model of relations between museum, community and local enterprises. In 2019, Betina Museum received the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award  in the category ‘Education, training and awareness-raising‘.





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