Do not touch

Dad put your shoes on! – cries Gutka to me.

Shoes? And where do you want to go? And why did you put wellingtons when it’s almost 40 °C outside, and it hasn’t „rained” for a long time?

We’ll play „in the museum”, so you have to put your shoes on – my daughter doesn’t give up.

I don’t want to put my shoes on, but we can play „in the museum”.

During the summer holidays, we visited the picturesque Museum of the Slovinian Village in Kluki. Localisation in the Slovinian National Park makes it so lovely, and you can escape modern holiday architecture. To make things more interesting, we went during the so-called „days on a Slovinian farm”, i.e. a presentation of the activities of the former inhabitants of Kluki. As we can read on the museum’s website, during this time: „in the fishermen’s rooms from 1917, butter is beaten in a „kierzynka”, and cook potato soup, spin thread on a spinning wheel and weave selvedges on boards, spin twine, sew fishing nets and weave baskets”.

Open-air museums are generally a funny and curious concept. Something of freezing our imagination of ancient peasant life was like, a kind of bourgeois amusement park in which the character is the ordered village and its everyday life.

As art historian and anthropologist Ewa Klekot noted, „[c]oollecting and discovering are two sides of the same coin: building a modern relationship with the world; a relationship captured by the metaphor of scientific conquest on the one hand and saving the treasures threatened by this conquest on the other”.

The museum is located in several cottages in the centre of the village. It gives the impression that the whole countryside is a living open-air museum. Mallows and sunflowers invite visitors, and clay jugs stuck in the fence stimulate the ears.

We have passed the first huts with an exhibition on the history and idea of the museum. We take photos of the boards „for later” and fly on. With children, it is not easy to read so many theoretical boards. It is enough that I once explained to Gutka what ethnography is.

Dad, let’s play „in the museum”!

OK, we’re already playing. But how do you play it?

So we showed our daughters the construction of an old cottage, clay pots, woven baskets, oil lamps and a large tiled oven. However, the main attraction to enlivening the empty corners of the old Slovinian houses was the live presentation of professions. In the end, it worked! In the next courtyard, we met weavers and ropemakers, there was also a gentleman who carved shoes for horses, a girl doing laundry on a tare, and in another hut, there was a lady cooking sour soup and her cousin frying jam, and others. We had the best conversation with the craftsman of horse ‚clogs’ – they are called ‚klumpy’. „Residents” of the open-air museum played their activities with more or less enthusiasm, which we think is a result of the generally small salaries in cultural institutions. What was amusing, however, was that they „launched themselves” at the sight of visitors.

At the very end, we ended up in a hut with an exhibition dedicated to childhood. Here is a corner of the cottage, a kind of playpen – a sandpit, a swing suspended on top. In the next room were a few toys on shelves and in display cases. On the walls hang photographs of children from the post-war era and the 1970s and 1980s. The selection of photos is excellent and shows the transformation and modernisation of a communist-era village. A large part of the photographs come from the NAC collection.

It’s all good daughters even listened and watched, but that closed swing and the toys! Anyone who was a child will feel the absurdity of this situation. They are crying. „Boom bum” (swinging) says Gaia, Gutka at the time trying to force the railing to swing a bit. But you know what exhibit is an exhibit. The watchful eye of a staff member immediately spotted the attempt to undermine the order. Not allowed, then not allowed. Ah, if only it were possible to do things differently, to make not just an open swing for the children, but to give the whole hut to touch, to walk on, chairs to sit on, beds to lie on, pots to look at, cups to drink, instruments to play!

  • Ewa Klekot, Kłopoty ze sztuką ludową. Gdańsk 2011.

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