Preserving the past, engaging in the future: the importance of small local museums and collections – a look at the heritage collection of the city of Novska, Croatia
Traveling around the world, we are often struck by the grandeur of museums that present the history and cultural heritage of entire nations. These facilities house collections of priceless artifacts and treasures that tell the stories of our ancestors. Among these impressive museums, it is easy to overlook the importance and wealth of small local museums and collections. These museums act as portals to the community’s exclusive and diverse cultural heritage.
Heritage Collection of the City of Novska, Croatia (cro. Muzejska zavičajna zbirka Grada Novske) is one such museum. It shows the importance of preserving cultural heritage for future generations and the impact this can have on the community.
Dig. 1: A section of the permanent exhibition showing the everyday life of the inhabitants of Novsko in the past. © Tomislav Koran
The beginnings of the collection
Small local museums and collections offer an intimate experience. They allow visitors to connect with objects and stories in a personal and meaningful way. Located in the heart of Novsko, in the building of the Public Open University (cro. Pučko otvoreno ucilište Novska), Heritage Collection tells the history of the area through a diverse collection of ancient artefacts, many of which were collected by the Sajko family. This collection is listed in the Register of Cultural Property of the Republic of Croatia and covers a wide period, from prehistory to the Croatian War of Independence.
For 70 years, Živko and Željko, a father-son duo, tirelessly saved and preserved thousands of items from the rich history of Nova, protecting them from destruction and oblivion. The collection was originally located in the basement of the Sajek house, which earned it the nickname “Museum in the House”. Over the years, the Sajek family sacrificed their living space to accommodate the growing number of artifacts. In addition to collecting material objects, Živko and Željko also documented public life through photography and collected a huge collection of photos from family albums of both well-known and lesser-known inhabitants of Novsko.
A Journey Through Time and Culture: The Power of Social Engagement
The permanent exhibition presents 341 objects divided into 9 categories: archaeology, economic development, transport, everyday life, religion, postcards and photographs, fire equipment, ancient weapons and military equipment. Each object is carefully selected and presented to provide a comprehensive look at Novska’s history. Combined with informative cartels and texts, the layout is designed to be both educational and engaging. With the help of Željko Sajko, who is employed by the museum and was the first artifact collector, guided tours are organized to elevate the visitor experience by helping individuals engage with the items and narratives on display in a personal and insightful way.
Dig. 2: A variety of archaeological artifacts in the Monuments Collection of the City of Novska. © Tomislav Koran
Dig. 3: Fire-fighting equipment from the first half of the 20th century in the Collection of Monuments of the City of Novska. © Tomislav Koran
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Heritage Collection of Novska also regularly organizes temporary exhibitions that showcase the diverse culture of the region. These exhibitions not only provide a platform for the local community to learn about its history, but also allow for a wider range of objects and perspectives to be shown.
The Heritage Collection of Novska has curated many recent exhibitions such as Weft by weft: a return to traditional hand weaving. This exhibition celebrated the art of traditional hand weaving, which was an important part of the region’s cultural heritage. Visitors could see the intricate hand weaving process and understand the history and importance of the craft.
another exhibition, Birthday from Family Albums, a collection of family photographs taken during birthday celebrations throughout the 20th century by local photographer Juraj Jmbrečina is on display. The evolution of birthday celebrations over time is illustrated and the cultural and social importance of this tradition is emphasized.
Collection also organized T-34 and T-55: Tanks in defense of Croatiaan exhibition exploring the role of tanks in the Croatian War of Independence in the early 1990s, in which Novska played a key role.
The local community brought their knowledge, objects and stories to these exhibitions, making them possible. Thanks to these exhibits, the Heritage Collection of Novska continues to protect the cultural heritage of the region and make it available to both residents and visitors.
The museum also runs a program that actively encourages young people to take up curatorial duties, giving them the chance to learn about their cultural heritage and become custodians of it for future generations. The involvement of communities and schools in the activities of the museum not only fosters active involvement, but also guarantees the accessible transfer of the cultural heritage of the region.
Residents and local organizations can also borrow items for display, offering a personal look at local history.
The existence of the Heritage Collection of Novska highlights the importance of small local museums in preserving cultural heritage and promoting community involvement. Through a diverse selection of exhibits and programs, the Collection showcases the area’s distinctive history and narratives, thus preserving Novsko’s cultural heritage for future generations.
Pučko otvoreno učilište website: