The Museum opened its doors in the early 1950s. The discussions and the idea about the museum was first proposed in 1953. The very next year, 1954, saw the launch of a series of three exhibitions - the exhibition documenting the National Liberation War and the Partisan Battalion Pino Budicin, the archeological exhibition and the exhibition of works of artists staying in Rovinj during the summer months who later continued to intensely meet, create and exhibit at the Museum. The artists' colony gathering figurative artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians has kept growing to the present day with relentless intensity.
In those days, a growing number of items coming from other museums became part of the museum collection: Old Master's paintings from little churches and abandoned family houses, finds discovered at the bottom of the sea, fishing tools, fishing nets, various household items, books, photographs and various documents. Curators have divided the totality of the valuable items housed in the museum into smaller segments and completed stories. The collections are gradually taking shape.
Due to extensive research and excavations at Monkodonja, rescue excavations in small prehistoric sites such as the city of Rovinj (historic centre), Turnina, Sarizol, Moncastelier, etc., rescue excavations at Veštar, Valalta, Polari, Valdibora and the churches of St Euphemia, St Thomas near Rovinj, St Christopher, St Bartholomew, etc., and to archaeological topographic surveys, the Archaeology Collection may be divided into four categories - prehistoric sites, ancient sites, the Early Middle Ages and the numismatic collection.
Holdings of the Ethnographic Collection keep expanding as a result of the inhabitants of Rovinj donating their objects of everyday life from Rovinj and Rovinjsko Selo dating from the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. Kitchen items, textile and furniture evoke the atmosphere of a typical Rovinj house. Items witnessing a great potential of craftsmanship in the city of Rovinj – fishermen, wine-growers, olive growers, shipbuilders, stone-carvers, photographers, shoemakers, barbers, various service occupations, manufacture of pasta and candles, printing press, pharmacists, treasured moments spent with a good book and song, theatre-going and religious celebrations, all of these and more have left material traces of bygone times.
Art collections of the Rovinj Heritage Museum are divided into two separate units: the Old Masters' Collection and the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. Both units are partly on display in the museum's permanent collection. The Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art comprises 1801 works by Croatian artists from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. It represents a cross-section of artistic events in Istria and the wider area, with particular emphasis on the artists from Rovinj and Rovinj's artists' colony.
The Old Masters' Collection encompasses works created from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century in addition to baroque polychrome wooden sculptures and a collection of portraits and paintings dating back to the nineteenth century. Most works come from the collection of Baron Georg von Hutterott's residence on St Andrew's Island. Paintings from the inventory of Rovinj's redundant churches constitute the other part of the collection.
Historic collections are closely linked to ethnological research into Rovinj's everyday life past and present. Photographs, postcards and various other documents complete the picture of the city in foregone times.
The Museum has a vast scholarly library stocked by donations of Rovinj's distinguished citizens. The centrepiece of the library is the “Stancoviciana” memorial collection with its rarities printed from 1501 to 1850, a donation of Petar Stanković (1771-1852), a scholar, writer and passionate bibliophile.
Curators' activities are aimed at gathering numerous collaborators, researchers, experts and participants in historical events who keep offering their unreserved help and invaluable support.
Contemporary Art and Old Masters' Collections are on permanent display, as is part of items belonging to Archaeology and Historical Collection. Ethnographical and historical holdings can be seen occasionally in thematic exhibitions.
Rovinj Heritage Museum
The museum is housed in the baroque palace of the Califfi counts from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and in Gallery St. Thomas.
The building is located on the square in the historic centre on the site of the former bascule bridge which connected the island to the mainland until 1763. The canal between the island and the mainland is now filled and used as a street. Gallery St. Thomas is housed in the church dedicated to the same saint on Bregovita Street in the historic centre.
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