While I was working on this article I went to the National Museum of Slovenia for about four times in a row, so one of their employees already asked me if I was becoming their daily visitor… I think my last visit dates back to my primary school years, so re-visiting it after quite a long time made me think about the attitude towards our own history. Are we aware enough of our national history? Are we proud of it?
According to Barbara Ravnik, the museum manager, we are not ignorant towards it. But we don’t do enough to know more about it, to learn it in a way the knowledge will stay with us. But we should, because, by her opinion, this kind of knowledge defines a certain level of sophistication – especially if one knows how and when to use it. And this should also be one of the purposes of such institutions – to present the history and all artefacts in attractive way, to be open towards public and not to keep the precious exhibit pieces reserved only for the privileged ones. By her opinion the museums should be wide open for all the publics and they should help people overcome the barriers and support them to simply absorb arts and history. Various collaborations, such as the partnership between the museum and the IDENTITY DRESS project, is one of the ways to do so. Speaking passionately about the future plans and vision of the museum she exposes two of her high priorities: an immensely important world exhibition hosted by the museum. Full of glow, she unofficially adds there there might be an option of collaboration with one of the greatest Chinese museums. Her second goal is to actively promote the world’s oldest musical instrument found in Slovenia, which is kept inside the National Museum of Slovenia.
True, the Neanderthal flute made of a young cave bear’s bone is around 50.000 to 60.000 years old and it was found at the “Divje Babe” excavation site. Besides the whistle, the most important exhibit pieces of the museum’s permanent collection are: the famous Vače Situla, an Early Iron Age ritual vessel, the crannogmen boat from around 2000 BC and the Egyptian mummy of Akeswyta, the priest of the Carnac’s temple of Amon Ra. Besides these, many various and interesting objects of the Slovenian heritage narrating stories of our land’s history can be found in the museum. Objects with stories are those that Barbara Ravnik finds attractive, as well as people with stories. And when I asked her about her favourite artefacts she exposes two, just because of stories behind…
The first one is a chasuble sewn out of the “The Hasan’s coat”. Surprisingly, the infamous coat of Hasan paša Predojević, the commander of Turkish forces in the battle at Sisak in 1593, was designed of silken brocade manufactured in Venice. It returned to Europe as a part of war booty and was recycled into a chasuble (which was, ironically, used in christian ceremonies).
The second of Barbara’s favorite artifacts is a pair of ivory dolls from the 3rd century which were found in a Roman stone sarcophagus in Ljubljana with the remains of a girl who probably suffered from terminal illness. She considers them as antique Barbie dolls. They were made in Rome and painted in vivid colours. Ivory dolls were considered a luxury, therefore they are rarely found. As Roman girls would sacrifice their toys to a deity before the wedding such dolls can only be found in the graves of girls who died before.
The National Museum of Slovenia is the oldest of all museum institutions in Slovenia. It was founded in 1821 and is located inside a Neo-Renaissance building in the center of Ljubljana. The building opening dates back to 2 December 1888 as the first building in Slovenia designed and build exclusively for a museum until 2010.
The building definitively has its charm. Being positioned in the city center and surrounded with a lovely park and buildings that carry their own tales. An impressive entrance, a typical distinctive “piano nobile”, and a gorgeous hallway which leads to the main staircase accompanied with pure white rococo statues of muses. Who doesn’t adore bourgeois high ceilings and all this old parquet that creaks! Its metropolitan touch of an old museum, although in a more boutique version, typical for Ljubljana, inspires. Even though we all connect old buildings with ghosts (museums are no exception!), our national museum has no in-house inhabitants of that kind. Well, at least Ms. Ravnik says so! Just like many of the fancy old buildings, this museum has its own inner courtyard, which was covered with glass roof in 1991. Honestly, I always thought it was done way before… And suddenly the museum got a new hall, quiet spacious, excellent for temporary exhibitions and various events. IDENTITY DRESS 2015 will be one of those. In my opinion hall of this kind is not only useful but also a precious jewel the museum offers.
Although the National Museum of Slovenia has two departments – the main building in Muzejska street and the department in Museum Quarter Metelkova, where mostly applied arts from the past five centuries are showcased, they are confronting spacial problems. Namely the building in Muzejska street houses two state museums – the National Museum of Slovenia and the Museum of Natural history as well. I bet they both have much more to display and I am so curios how many artefacts are still in their depots all crowded and dusty but definitely worth seeing! Perhaps a new idea for another personalised visit…
All photos taken by article author Matjaž Plošinjak, unless stated differently.