The Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex is based in the cultural landscape of Northern Transylvania. This is one of the most picturesque regions of Romania, with high esteem for traditions, tangible and intangible heritage. Bistrița is surrounded by beautiful vast forests and is the northernmost Saxon town in the country. The city is situated by the Bistrița River and has a population of approximately 70.000 inhabitants and numerous architectural monuments.
The museum establishment dates to 1950. This institution has gradually increased thanks to the enthusiasm and passion of its first leader, teacher Stefan Danila. He started gathering remnants from the Evangelical Gymnasium’s collection and got help from volunteers. This is how the first collection was shaped. Ethnographic items, historical objects, numismatics, minerals, preserved animals and birds gradually gave shape to a mixed museum with a highly educational role. Due to its continuous growth, the collection needed more display space.
Today the museum is located at the former Habsburg barracks, a monument from the late 19th century. The pavilion has two levels enabling adequate housing and display of the patrimony. The four-winged structure gives way to a generous outdoor space. The internal courtyard houses a wooden church – an architectural monument from the 18th century – and vernacular small buildings.
The heritage and collection are divided into four categories: ethnography & folk art, history & archaeology, nature & science, and contemporary art.
The European Heritage Volunteers Project was involved with the conservation and restoration of Romanian winter garments belonging to the collection of the Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex with a focus on the traditional sheepskin coats kept in their collection. It had an educational objective of raising awareness about the notion that ethnography and folk costumes are a bridge between the past and the future, allowing intangible and tangible heritage to meet. Through them, it is possible to discover the needs and ways of the forbearers of a culture.
There are 151 winter garments in Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex’s collection. The oldest one dates to 1890. It could have taken weeks of manual labour to finish just one garment. Some pieces bear the wearer’s initial and year of making. The different types of decorations represent the specificity of particular areas and social status of the wearer. Currently, these are one of the visitors to the museum’s most popular exhibitions and represent a qualitative source of inspiration for contemporary design.
Initially, the garments were mainly white. Black and brown were employed later in finishing touches and decorations. Over the years, the colour palette employed became very rich and diverse. External influences made silk floral motifs and tassels very appealing and desirable.
While providing a deep familiarisation with Romanian folk costume collected by the Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex concerning history, types, uses and other aspects, the practical activities during the project focused on conservation and restoration of the sheepskin coats. Technical guidance preceded each type of activity. Under the guidance of specialists from the ASTRA National Museum Complex and from the Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex, the activities consisted in learning and applying traditional cleaning procedures intended to stabilise the material in its current state to prevent further damage or wear, stitching and sewing with skin or textile threads, embroidery and application of wool dye techniques.
During the training the participants got familiarised with material and immaterial aspects regarding winter garments’ traditions. At the end, they worked together in showcasing the pieces they had previously handled in order to apply the new techniques and presented their own national costumes.
Within the educational part of the project, several educational and cultural activities took place. The participants had the opportunity to get to know the historically rich Bistrița Năsăud region of Transylvania, and experience its culture by visiting the Jelna Winery, the Jelna Evangelical Church, the Tihuța Pass, the Tasuleasa Social Association – Via Transilvanica, the Piatra Fântânele Monastery and the ColibițaLake.
The project provided a good opportunity for participants with heritage-related backgrounds to get acquainted with folk authenticity, to learn from experienced craftsmen and museum staff, and to help preserve almost forgotten skills. It also allowed participants to make connections and draw similarities between the Romanian folk costume and their own national costume. The project was a good opportunity to promote national heritage in a wider context and laid the ground for a lasting cultural exchange.
The project has been organised by Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex and "Heritage for the Future" Cultural Association, in collaboration with European Heritage Volunteers.