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Dr. Virgil Ștefan Nițulescu: A museum looking forward- The National Museum of the Romanian Peasant

The National Day of Romania is a perfect occasion for us to look forward, quite optimist, paving our future on our most precious part of the past: the national cultural heritage      

 

The National Museum of the Romanian Peasant is one of the cultural institutions in Romania, which, usually, is considered one of the marks of the country’s identity. The Museum was founded in 1906, on a small existing collection, which was augmented continually, since then.

It is not a “normal” ethnographic museum and, definitely, not a monographic museum on the rural life in Romania. We are not trying to explain everything about peasantry and about traditions. Though we have significant collections emphasising the beauty of the objects that were encompassing the daily life of the peasants, in the 18th and 19th centuries – some of them being true masterpieces of the unnamed genius extant in almost each traditional community –, only some of them were exhibited in the permanent exhibition (which was opened until August, 2016, and which shall be re-opened only by the end of the next year, due to an extended work of restauration). The authors of the permanent exhibition tried to design an essay, a transversal view inside the spiritual life of the ”Romanian sole” (as we are, usually depicting the whole world of old traditions and customs in the rural communities). Nevertheless, our museum is much more than this. We are documenting the today’s life of Romanians and we are a true forum of public debates around the changes affecting the rural universe, in the contemporary society. The Museum is not only a mirror of the past, but, mostly, a lens towards tomorrow, using the cultural heritage as a mean for discussing the way we are judging and understanding our place, as a nation, as it was in the old world and as it shall be in the new one, we are building today.

Accordingly, the National Day of Romania is not representing, only, the memory of one of the most important events in the country’s history, the capstone of our national edifice, the day when, after a struggle which lasted for more than six decades, Romania became not only a sovereign and independent country, but, also, one that united most of the Romanians in one state. The National Day of Romania is an opportunity for analysing our present and foreseeing our future, in the new European frame: that of a united Europe celebrating our continental cultural diversity. Romania has changed its structure in the last century. From an ethnic state, as it was in 1918, it became a modern civic nation, united around common values, as they are emphasised in our Constitution. However, we can still nurture these values if we acknowledge our national cultural heritage. Moreover, this is exactly what the museum is doing in its daily activity, being not only a promoter of our heritage, but, also, a showcase for universal culture – as we are housing exhibitions, conferences, cinema, musical and theatrical events from all over the world. It is our way to repay to Europe and to the rest of the world what Romania has gained, during centuries, from foreign cultures – as our country is, in itself, one of the most diverse in the whole European Union. In fact, our Museum is celebrating, as a second year in a row, the Centennial of the events that have marked what we are still calling the “Great Romania”. It is not an introverted and limited event; it is a perfect occasion to show the contribution of Hungarians, Roma, Germans, Serbs, Ukrainians, Jews and all the other national minorities, including their specific religious denominations, to the incredibly rich cultural heritage of Romania. We are observing, in this respect, not only the tangible heritage but also, the much more fragile intangible heritage. The last three decades have witnessed a huge and still in march change in the daily life or Romanians, many of the customs, crafts and traditional cultural elements being under threat, in face of the contemporary global trends. The Museum is not a passive stander-by, watching these phenomena, but an active cultural actor on the national stage. Our most recent project – available on our site (www.muzeultaranuluiroman.ro) – that is emphasising the digital recordings of our archive is just the most recent prove.

That is why, the National Day of Romania is a perfect occasion for us to look forward, quite optimist, paving our future on our most precious part of the past: the national cultural heritage.

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