The Ethnography and local history school Museum “Mesajul Străbunilor”
“Nothing is more important in a locality than the recognition and preservation of the roots that gave its identity” this is the message that greets the visitor who steps into the ethnography and local history museum of Uricani, museum created with the efforts of local people.
Beyond the teaching activity in the classes, a group of teachers have undertaken a series of educational and extracurricular activities, designed to support the training of generations of children and younglings, the appreciation of the local history, the capitalization of the traditions and because of these concerns they have succeeded to found a cultural institution, a school museum so that they can present to those interested the traditions and the customs of the area.
The concerns for the collection of the museum objects began in 1978, in the House of school children of Uricani, when the group of teachers received the task to make a project about the history and the traditional customs of Jiu Valley area. Because at that time there was no database about the population, the customs and the local history, they began collecting various objects, documents, images, clothing, paintings and icons. Because of the lack of space they were originally deposited in the house of a teacher, until the project was completed.
The first exhibition took place in 1980, the success and the congratulations received for the initiative urged them to persevere in the project of founding a museum about the inhabitants and the customs of Jiu Valley (project which saw the light of day in the following years).
Since February 2002, the museum was transferred to the premises of the General School no. 2 Uricani, as the school museum of Ethnography and Local History “Mesajul Străbunilor”, functioning in the new premises for about 11 years.
During this period of time the museum has been visited by people of all ages, individuals or organized groups from our country or through associations – even from countries like Italy, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Turkey etc.
The great desire of this bold-hearted group of teachers is now to find a larger space for the museum (since the exhibits are still crowded into the class room where the museum functions) but still under the aegis of the elementary school.
We can only congratulate them for the over 30 years effort of collecting, preserving these relics and their exhibition in a mini school museum from which we invite you to view images and to find out more information.
The popular costumes of the momârlani, a predominantly pastoral population in the past, show similarities to those of people from Marginea, but also to those of people from Haţeg.
The female costume consists of:
– head clothing (piece of fabric made from linum or cotton decorated with flowers and lace),
– shirt (made from a cloth manually weaved, richly decorated with floral motifs),
– opreg and şurţ (rectangle pieces of cloth – the opreg or “catrinţa” was wore at the back, horizontally decorated, on a dark background; the şurţ was wore at the front, consisting of two or three layers of fabric with three rows of floral motifs with fringes/ tassels)
– brăcire (a wool waistband decorated with zigzag polychrome stripes),
– laibăr (a short vest, to the waist, with sleeves),
– opinci (housemade, initially from cattle or pig skin worn with “călţuni” from a white baize).
The masculine costume consists of:
– hat (originally “caiţă”, wider at the bottom followed by a “pointed hat”),
– shirt (made from a white or striped linum, hemp or cotton, with red and black buttons),
– iţari or “cioareci” (made from white baize at first, tight on the leg, replaced later with white pants, ironed )
– waist belt (made from double leather decorated with pins and metal eyelets),
– vest (from baize),
– opinci (cattle or pork skin with white or striped woollen “obiele” followed in time by leather boots, boots and shoes, worn with woollen socks.
Along with the costumes, other elements that complete the popular costume are exhibited in the museum: saddle bags for humans (there are saddle bags for horses or donkeys) and other types of bags woven from black and white woolen, decorated with specific motifs, composing real pieces of ornament.
The shepherding – traditional occupation
The growth of animals, particularly sheeps and cattles, was the main reason that the first inhabitants that arrived from the Haţeg district agreed to remain in this geographical space bathed by the waters of the West Jiu river, guarded at north by the Tulişa peak and at south by the peaks of Şiglăul Mare and Coarnele.
The objects from the museum tell us about life at the sheep pen, the relationships, the activities specific to pasturing. We can enumerate some of them: the wooden knife for cutting the polenta, the fresh cheese stirrer (ştircă), the shear for shaving the sheep, the bells and badice, răbojuri, the bat and the shepherd whistle.
Domestic textile industry
The domestic textile industry involves processing some of the products derived from animals (wool) and from cultivated plants (flax, hemp, cotton), with the help of tools and installations specific to the homestead. At Uricani, the domestic textile industry was highlighted by processing the hemp and the wool.
In order to process hemp, they were using a number of tools such as: the wooden “mieliţa” the wooden comb with iron teeth (dărac), the hairbrush (chefea) for the cloths (fuioare), the trough used to chose the seeds, spinning forks, răşchitorul, vârtelniţa, pârlăul (a hollow willow hub) for bleaching jirebiile (hanks of yarn for woven the cloth).
The processing of the wool required the use of the shears, the trough and the basket, the spinning fork, sucitoarea, răşchitorul, vârtelniţa and the carpet loom.
The fabric was spinned and weaved. They weaved almost the entire winter period, especially in the Lent, preparing new clothes, along with carpets, pricoiţe, ţoluri, straiţe, saddlebags, etc.
Tools used for transport
Ţolul and năglabul were used to transport the hay from the haystack to the barn or at the place where the sheeps were fed.
Ţolul was made out of a hemp cloth tied with ropes at four corners, in order to keep the hay inside. This type of bond was created to be carried at the back. Năglabul was composed of two hemp ropes that were put on the ground crosswise and over them the hay was being built – then the ropes were tied two by two, a fork was pinched in it and then it was risen from the ground.
The truncheons for the hay had a 3-4 m length, 6-8 cm thickness, being made out of fir, being used for the transporting the hay to the haystack or, in winter, from the the haystack to the barn.
The wheelbarrow was used to transport the manure or other things in the household.
The cats or the iron claws were tied up to the footwear in winter so that the people wouldn’t slip when the roads on the hills were frozen.
The hand sleigh was used mainly for hay and wood transportation from the less accessible areas, which were not usually roads; it was used especially when the action was taking place as a statute labour .
The sleigh pulled by a horse was used where there were no roads. It was use when the householder needed a large amount of fodder, firewood or other things that were difficult to carry.
The wagon represented the main mean of transport from spring till late autumn, when the snow stared to fall. Today there is a tendency to definitively relent the animal traction and to use the small tractors and the ATVs for the steep mountain roads.
Vessels used at the sheep pen
Generally, the vessels used at the sheep pen served in the preparation of cheese and other milk derivatives (green cheese, cream, butter, etc.). These vessels were mostly made of wood (bote and botițe, ciubere, bădâne, donițe, șiștare and strungărețe) or cast iron (ciuhae, laboșe, căldări).
Bota is a round vessel, flattened on the sides, made of staves, with lids and circles of wood or metal, used for carrying water or milk.
Botiţele are smaller, but still round shaped, with as hole and cork in the upper lid, being used for the transport of curd or other liquids.
Ciubărul is a big vessel, of a conoid shape, without a cover at the upper side, having different uses: for carrying and preserving the fresh cheese or for transporting cheese to the market.
Bădâniul, having a conoid shape, was made from wood staves, in it was obtained the butter by whipping the cow’s milk.
Șiștarul has the shape of a bucket, made from staves, with a handle raised at one side, serving for milking the cows.
Strungăreţa, alike the șiștar, but smaller, was used for milking the sheeps.
The habits of sheep or cow pens in the Uricani area maintained from ancient times, being passed from generation to generation as a form of community cohabitation, recognizing the fact that the process has brought and will bring improvements regarding the quality of the work, and the communion between people and nature will always remain the same.
In the Jiu Valley, the pottery could not be practised because of the geological structure of the subsoil that had no clay. Therefore, until the end of the XIX century, the inhabitants were forced to use wood vessels.
In Uricani we can signal in that period the use of the plates and large bowls, with a capacity between 0.5 and 2 liters, made from birch wood.
The first pottery vessels were brought from the Haţeg district, Baru Mare, Livadia de Coastă and Livadia de Câmp. The pottery from Livadia is represented by several types of vessels, characterized by thin walls, because of that some of them were protected by braided wires, made by those who were using them.
Large pots with belts, having a capacity up to 20l, had an ovoid shape and were used for cooking. They were decorated with one or more clay belts and were provided with two handles, diametrically opposed, placed on the upper side. This type of vessels were usually used at feasts (weddings, christenings) or religious ceremonies (alms, celebrations).
The water crock had an ovoid shape, with an arched handle. For example, from Gorj they brought – big bellied pottery pots for cooking, with one handle and flat pots with two handles, used also for cooking. They were brown glazed on the inside and not glazed on the outside, keeping the russet color. The croks from Gorj were spherical, with a tight neck, followed by a round and delineated mouth or shaped as a beak, equipped with a strainer.
Even if the pottery was not practiced in the Jiu Valley, in the 50s of the twentieth century, at Uricani, were signaled some attempts of obtaining fired bricks (the so-called gypsy brick) of yellow soil, alike clay.
The resultant bricks are of inferior quality (mainly due to the raw material used), after a short period of time their production was abandoned. This kind of bricks are also part of the museum’s exhibits.
The numismatics collection
The numismatics is a science that deals with the money study, since when they appeared into the world and to those we are used to nowadays. The name of this science comes from the Greek word “nomisma” or “numisma” adopted later also by the Romans, word that means money.
Our ancestors, the Romans, commonly used for money the word “moneta” from the name of goddess Juno Moneta. From Latin, the word moneta passed in other languages having the same meaning – money -, today the term employed is currency.
The numismatics collection represents an evidence of historical time stream on a given territory, the degree of civilization and the culture of the people concerned.
The school museum “Mesajul Străbunilor” has in the numismatics collection coins and banknotes from the royal period (Carol I and Carol II), from the socialist period (1947-1989) and the post-revolutionary period (from Romania and Europe).