Contemporary museums strive to be recognized as significant parts of their communities. The proof that the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade lives and grows owing to its community lies in the fact that the community provides it with its substance – museum objects. Indeed, the Ethnographic Museum would not be what it is if it were not for the people “nurturing it”: it would not have an inventory numbering, one hundred and nineteen years after its inception, over fifty thousand objects, a number that does not include other material sources such as photographs, books, archival documents as well as films. In this way, the Museum provides many opportunities to researchers from the areas of ethnology and anthropology as well as cultural history.
To a great extent, it attracts designers and artists of applied arts, creators who are inspired by ethnographic cultural heritage. All of this is owed to people who have, usually without asking for compensation, granted objects of immense significance and value to them. This exhibition serves to honor exactly these people and highlight the uniqueness of their artifacts. It was difficult to reduce 1106 objects that the Museum was enriched with in the period covered by this exhibition to the selection in front of you. By selecting a limited number of showpieces, we made sure that all of them receive in-depth attention. At least as much as it is needed to shed light on the diversity of human relationships with things, as well as the complex ties of emotions, attitudes, and opinions people often express through the use of material objects.
Also, another important aspect led us to exhibit the objects in such a way. Ethnographic objects are necessarily personal. Whether we are considering mundane items, or ones brought out only on special occasions, they are oftentimes tied to important events in the lives of people who used them. These events are marked by tears and laughter, anger and joy, love and hate. For this reason, a special acknowledgment goes out to people bold enough to share their personal items and stories with others, and allow us to look at their lives in order to ask ourselves, once again: what does it mean to be human?
Authors: Maša Peruničić and Ivan Maksimović.