Traditional musical instruments in The Museum of the Poreč Territory

The development and activity of the Poreč museum is divided into three periods. The first period began with the foundation of the Istrian Regional Archaeological Museum in Poreč, which at that time was the main town of the Margraviate of Istria and the centre of the Provincial Parliament for Istria. The museum’s first holdings consisted mainly of donations from the local people and antique collectors plus archaeological finds collected during the research of several sites in the surroundings of Poreč (Poreština).

The second phase is linked to the period between the two world wars, when Istria was under Italian administration, and Pula became the provincial centre. As a consequence of that, the Istrian Regional Museum moved to Pula, as well as a part of the museum’s holdings, and the Poreč museum opened again in 1926 as the City Museum of Arts and History. The director of the museum at that time was Ranieri Mario Cossàr, whose scientific work alongside historical-artistic, historical and philosophical themes also touched upon ethnography.  His work in which he reconstructed a traditional Vlach wedding from the end of the 19th century in Baderna is very significant. The photographs that were taken at the time are considered to be the first element of ethnography in the Poreč museum since they were exhibited in a display of that time. However, we have no confirmation that ethnological objects were collected during that period.

During World War Two part of the museum’s holdings, as well as documentation, was lost in a fire. The museum only opened again in 1953 when Ante Šonje a graduate art historian and archaeologist was employed as the director. However, earlier back in 1949 ethnological objects were shown in the Romanesque house which represented the origin of the Ethnological Department of the Heritage Museum of Poreština (the Poreč region). This material was collected in 1946, along with various other documents, during the setting up of the ‘Svjedočanstva o slavenstvu Istre’ (‘Testimonies to the Slavdom of Istria’) exhibition upon the visit of the Inter-Allied Commission which was deciding on the unification of Istria with Italy or Yugoslavia.  In this third period of the Poreč museum institution, the relationship towards the ethnographic material changed significantly, which also influenced the policy of the acquisition of material in the field. The largest part of the items, which today make up the Ethnological Department, was collected during the period from the early 1960s to the early 1970s. According to documentation from 1987, 902 ethnographic items were stored in the museum, and over time, with additional field investigations, donations and acquisitions this figure rose to 1,196.

Regarding the traditional musical instruments which are kept in the Ethnographic Department, their number is relatively small, that is, in all a total of 26. Amongst them are 9 “dvojnica” (double whistle), 5 “šurla” (double pipes), 4 “sopela”, 3 “mih” (bag) and 1 “mišnica” (pipes) without a “mih”, and 1 “frula” (flute) made of cane, an “harmonica” (accordion), tamburica cindra and a “lijerica” (lyra). According to available data, these items were collected mostly from the areas of the municipalities of Poreč and Kanfanar and in the early 1960s, when large acquisitions of ethnographic items were carried out in the field.

Unfortunately, for as many as 9 items, i.e. almost a third, there are no records about their acquisition, since the items were purchased in a large number and frequently without the noting of the relevant information. Contributing to this situation was the fact that there were no professional ethnographic curators employed in the museum at that time. In addition, there are cases where the data of the place, time and the maker's name in the noted documentation of objects have been omitted. The exceptions are two “mih”, of which one was made entirely by Gašpar Laković (a famous player and maker of traditional musical instruments, 1884-1970), most likely made exclusively for the needs of the museum since it has obviously never been used. The other “mih” was made partly by G. Laković, i.e., the wooden “mišnica” were purchased in Mrgani and Laković made the rest of the instrument, that is, its leather part.

Amongst the interesting objects in the collection are two stringed instruments - the tamburica cindra, which according to the inscription on the reverse originates from Brest below Učka, and dates from 1970, plus a “lijerica” (lyra) about which we have no information about its origin, although it can be assumed that it doesn’t come from Istria but from Dalmatia.

Vltava Muk, curatrice curator at the Museum of the Poreč Territory