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 project will be dedicated to sheepskin coats. Ethnography and folk costumes best build a bridge between the past and the future, allowing intangible and tangible heritage to meet. Through them, we discover the needs and ways of our forbearers.
There are 151 winter garments in Bistrița Năsăud Museum’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 public’s most beloved categories of heritage 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 Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex concerning history, types, uses and other aspects, the practical activities will focus on conservation and restoration of sheepskin coats. Technical guidance will precede each type of activity. These activities can be summarised in a few steps: 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; couching loose threads or silk embroidery; application of wool dye techniques. This will imply a vast colour palette and a meticulous, but visually rewarding, type of work. In addition, a photo documentation of these steps will be carried out by the participants.
Most of the working part which will last six hours per day can be carried out outdoors. In the evenings and during the weekend, educational and cultural activities will take place.
This project is 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 will also allow participants to make connections and draw similarities between the Romanian folk costume and their own national costume.
The project will take place from July, 19th, to August 1st, 2020 and is organised by Bistrița Năsăud Museum Complex and "Heritage for the Future" Cultural Association, in collaboration with European Heritage Volunteers.