Slovene Ethnographic Museum


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Contact info
Slovenski etnografski muzej
Metelkova 2, SI-1000 Ljubljana
Phone386 (0) 1 300 8700
Fax386 (0) 1 300 8736
Founded byGovernment of the Republic of Slovenia
Tanja Roženbergar, Director
Online accounts:
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  • 24 September to 30 November 2019
    The exhibition Beehive Panels: Images of the Sacred and the Secular, prepared by the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and curated by Bojana Rogelj Škafar, at Russian Museum of Ethnography in Saint Petersburg, Russia
    programme organiser
Past Events
  • 11 March to 7 April 2019
    The exhibition Slovenian-Slovakian Dimension (among contributors mainly Slovene Ethnographic Museum), supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia Bratislava, at Múzeum Čierny in Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia
    programme organiser
  • 13 November to 26 November 2018
    The exhibition Intangible Cultural Heritage in Slovenia in the Light of the UNESCO Convention, curated by Nena Židov and Anja Jerin (Slovene Ethnographic Museum), supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia Brasília, at National Library in Brasília, Brazil
  • 14 September 2018
    The presentation of the Slovenian Alpine Museum, winner of the 2017 Živa Award, and Nina Zdravič Polič (Slovene Ethnographic Museum) participating in the accompanying programme of the presentation of the Živa Award for the best Slavic museum, organised by the Forum of Slavic Cultures International Foundation in cooperation with the National Technical Museum of Prague, at National Technical Museum in Prague, Czech Republic
  • 13 September to 30 September 2018
    The exhibition Intangible Cultural Heritage in Slovenia in the Light of the UNESCO Convention, curated by Nena Židov and Anja Jerin (Slovene Ethnographic Museum), supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia Sarajevo, at National Museums of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 21 June 2018
    Presentation of the Slovenian roses stamps and the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Slovenia in the light of the UNESCO Convention exhibition, co-organised with the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, within The Long Night of Consulates 2018 programme, at Consulate General of the Republic of Slovenia Munich in Munich, Germany
    programme more
  • 4 June to 20 June 2018
    The exhibition Intangible Cultural Heritage in Slovenia in the Light of the UNESCO Convention, curated by Nena Židov and Anja Jerin (Slovene Ethnographic Museum), at Lublin Castle Museum in Lublin, Poland
  • 31 May to 3 June 2018
    The Forum of Slavic Cultures International Foundation presents Slovenian museums Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, Slovene Ethnographic Museum and Slovenian Alpine Museum, featuring lectures and panel discussions by Andreja Rihter (Forum of Slavic Cultures International Foundation), Blaž Peršin (Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana), Jernej Hudolin (Heritage preservation and restoration in Slovenia) and Martina Lesar Kikelj (Association of Slovene Restorers), at the The International Festival Intermuseum at Intermuseum VDNKH Pavilion No. 75 in Moscow, Russia organiser more
  • 15 May to 23 May 2018
    The exhibition Intangible Cultural Heritage of Slovenia in the light of the UNESCO Convention, curated by Nena Židov and Anja Jerin and organised in cooperation with the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia Podgorica, at Cultural Centre Budo Tomović in Podgorica, Montenegro
  • 25 January to 31 March 2018
    The exhibition Slovenian-Slovakian Dimension (among contributors mainly Slovene Ethnographic Museum), in Martin, Slovakia
  • 14 December 2016
    Cocta - Slovenian Pop Drink for All Ages exhibition, provided by the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia Washington, at Slovenian Museum and Archives in Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  • 10 October to 10 November 2014
    An exhibition of Egyptian objects from the collection of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and a contribution by the museum’s curator Marko Frelih in the framework of the exhibition The Magic of Egypt at Museo archeologico regionale Paolo Orsi in Syracuse, Italy
  • 3 June to 12 June 2014
    Slavic Carnivals, an exhibition also presenting the Slovene carnival tradition, co-organised by the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, at UNESCO in Paris, France
  • 16 February to 20 August 2011
    Akan Goldweights, an exhibition featuring over 220 objects from the collection of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, at Museum of African Art in Belgrade, Serbia
  • 1 July to 31 October 2010
    Sguardi sull’Africa, an exhibition featuring objects from the collection of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, at Chiesa di San Lorenzo in San Vito al Tagliamento, Italy

The origins of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum (SEM) can be traced back to the ethnographic collections of the Provincial Museum of Carniola, established in 1821, although its immediate precursor was the Royal Ethnographic Museum, founded in 1923. It is situated in the new cultural centre in the former barracks complex on Metelkova Street in Ljubljana, with the Heritage Information and Documentation Centre, the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, the National Museum of Slovenia, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (MSUM), and KULT3000 as its neighbours. Its rich ethnological collections are partly presented to the public also online. The 90th anniversary of the museum was celebrated by an attractive temporary exhibition Doors. Spatial and Symbolic Passageways of Life.

The museum has three departments and several curatorships: the documentation department with a photo studio, the conservation and restoration department, dealing with metal, wood and textiles, and the library are important information resources.


The first collections incorporated in the Kranjska Provincial Museum only partly related to Slovene culture and were mainly non-European with items donated by Slovene seamen and missionaries (Friderik Baraga, Ignacij Knoblehar, Franc Pirc, Janez Čebulj).

The ethnological collections were managed by the Institute of Ethnography since its establishment in 1921 at the then-called National Museum within the Rudolfinum building in Ljubljana. Two years later the institute became independent as the Royal Ethnographic Museum with Niko Županič as the head. In 1941 it was renamed the Ethnographic Museum, and finally, in 1964, the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. The collections were presented at some of the castles surrounding Ljubljana such as the Goričane Castle, which housed the non-European collections.

In 1997 the Slovene Ethnographic Museum moved to its current location at Metelkova Street, to which a modern museum building was added-on in 2004.

Mission and facilities

The Slovene Ethnographic Museum's mission is to give present and future generations an insight into the traditional and contemporary (material, social and spiritual) culture of Slovenes living on the territory of Slovenia and in nearby countries (Italy, Austria and Hungary) and of Slovene immigrants and ethnic groups living in Slovenia. It also aims to foster knowledge about non-European cultures (American, African, Asian, and Australia & Oceania Collections).

The museum manages a 2000m² depot, 2700m² for permanent exhibitions and three temporary exhibition halls. The ground floor houses a multi-functional entrance hall, an information desk, a cloak-room, a museum shop, a crafts workshop, and a popular café. The museum's spacious courtyard is used for various events.


The museum houses more than 40,000 objects in several collections at eleven curatorships: the dwelling culture collection of Slovene ethnic territory consists of furniture, illuminants, building parts and wall decorations, cooking, heating, eating, storing, cleaning and personal care accessories; the social culture collection of toys, Easter eggs and bundles, pastry and inn inventory, tallies and measures; the spiritual culture collection of amulets, masks, folk instruments; the ethnographic film collection presents the lifestyle of Slovenes and peoples of the world and is available online; the rural economy, traffic and transport collection of items used in hunting, fishing, gathering, farming; the stockbreeding, beekeeping, forestry, transport and travel collection; the folk art and art sources collection of painted beehive front boards, signs, votive images and figurines, tombstones, crucifixes, boxes and plates, household altars, paintings on glass, wood and canvas, distaffs and bars, legacy of Šantel family, art sources by Maksim Gaspari, Peter Žmitek and others; the costumes and textiles collection of clothes and accessories, underwear, lacework and embroideries; the handicraft and trade collection of pottery, forge, wickerwork, timber industry, textile and footwear trade, dyeing, ropery, clockmaker's trade, lectar and candle making, painting crafts; the ethnic minorities collection of Slovene migrants and of minorities and other ethnic communities in Slovenia; the African and American collections from Old Egypt, Sudan, Eastern and Western Africa, Togo, South Africa, North and South America, Mexico, Bolivia; the Asian, Oceania and Australian collections from China, Tibet, India, Japan, Indonesia, Nepal, and Oceania.

Special collections deserving further mention are: the Egyptian collection, donated in 1843 by Anton Laurin; the Easter Sudan collection, donated in 1850 by Ignacij Knoblehar; the Anton Codelli collection from Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon brought in 1912–1914; the Pygmy collection donated by Paul Schebesta; the Chinese collection collected by Peter Turk in 1912–1913; the Indonesian collection donated by Vera and Aleš Bebler in 1970; and the Mexican collection donated by Vera and Ignac Golob in 1978.


The museum exhibits two permanent exhibitions. The first one Between Nature and Culture, presented to the public in 2006, received a Valvasor recognition in 2007. The selection out of museum collections presents over 3000 items of every day and holiday life.

The second permanent exhibition I, Us and Others – Images of my World, staged in 2009, is an exhibition about the human being and its relation to the world.

The museum stages between three and eight guest exhibitions each year, from Belgium, Poland, Macedonia, the Czech Republic, China, Japan, Italy and Bulgaria, and since 1995 the museum has toured its exhibitions (for example, You See Me, I See You: Cultural Diversity through Roma Eyes toured in 2009 to Palais de l'Europe in Strasbourg, Love is in the air: Love gifts in Slovene traditional culture toured to Finland and Hungary). Some staged temporary exhibitions are: Sublime Taiwan – Its Natural and Cultural Sightseeing (2010), Beauty of Chinese Painting: Reproductions from National Museum Taipei Collections (2010). The SEM temporary exhibition Sudan Mission 1848–1858 in 2009 presented the oldest collection of African objects of the Nilotic people in Europe, which were collected by missionary and researcher of the White Nil Ignacij Knoblehar.

Two web exhibitions are available online. Shareholding in Slovenia was prepared in cooperation with Telekom Slovenia. The second web exhibition is an archive of Slovene migrants' handicrafts (ročna dela), prepared in cooperation with the Institute for Slovenian Studies of Victoria (Australia).


The museum's premises with a reading room are open to the public for educational purposes. The education department organises guided tours, thematic workshops for children and adults, and a range of other educational events such as video screenings, lectures, and monthly museum workshops.

The SEM's educational programme includes three workshops: a pottery workshop and a weaving workshop, which both operate as intangible cultural heritage, and a photographic workshop, which exists only as a museum presentation of the Photo Studio Holinsky.


The museum publishes the Etnolog (Ethnologist) Journal since 1926, the SEMnovice newsletter, and a variety of other publications, including at least one study work each year dealing with museum collections.

Since 1991 the museum publishes the Slovene Ethnographic Museum Library collection, where its collections from the depots are presented to the public. From its fourth volume on the contents are bilingual (in Slovenian and English).

Another serial publication Art Trails [Likovne sledi] presents art works stored in the museum. The youngest serial publication Collections from This or That Side? presents the ethnographical collections outside the museum, basically referring to the Slovene ethnic territory. The volumes are bilingual (in Slovenian and in the language of the state where the collection is presented).

Documentation and restoration department

The Documentation and Restoration Department preserves numerous data and records, including 5,000 field drawings and sketches, 35,000 photographic negatives, 2,100 slides, field notebooks, posters, and Hemerotec since 1923. It cooperates with the Museum Documentation Association (UK) and uses ICOM-CIDOC and SPECTRUM standards for archival activities and digitisation processes. The museum's publications and the Etnolog (Ethnologist) Journal, the SEMnovice newsletter and a variety of other works dealing with museum collections are available to the public in the reading room.

Safeguarding the intangible culture

In 2011 the Slovene Ethnographic Museum took over the national coordination of intangible culture in Slovenia, which was previously entrusted to the Institute of Slovene Ethnology. While the methodological issues and criteria for the inclusion of particular intangible culture items in the register have been set in the initial phase, the basic task of the new coordinator's working group of experts is to maintain and develop the national database and make suggestions for the inclusion in the UNESCO representative list of the world's intangible heritage.

International cooperation

Some foreign museums also borrow objects (toys, old skis) from the SEM. The museum has also cooperated in a number of EU research projects, including the Raphael project Linen on Net: The Common Roots of European Linen Patterns (1998), the Carnival King of Europe (since 2010) by Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina (Italia) with project partners from Spain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Polland, Romania, Macedonia, and Slovenia.

The museum was a partner in the project The European Route of Roma Culture and Heritage (2009–2010). Among partners were the Office for National Minorities and Romano Pejtaušago Kamenci (Slovenia) and others from Luxembourg, Greece, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, France, and Romania.

Another collaborative project supported by EU funding in that period was Carniva King of Europe, initiated by Museum of the habits and customs of the people of Trentino in San Michele all’Adige (IT) with partners from Bolgaria, Croatia, France, Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Spain.

In the period 2014–2018 the Slovene Ethnographic Museum collaborates with Weltmuseum Wien (AT) that organises the SWICH (Sharing a World of Inclusion, Creativity and Heritage) project, a collaboration of 10 museums round Europe.

The SEM also takes part in the project Virtual Collection of Masterpieces, with the aim to collect around 1000 masterpieces from European and Asian museums to present online.

Since 1999 the SEM has been a "client" in the MUSEUMS programme Energy Efficiency and Sustainability in Retrofitted and New Museum Buildings (Framework 5). It has also cooperated in the MATRA programme and hosted an intern from Russia.

The exchange of international experts and studies abroad is common. Since 1997 the museum has organised and hosted several conferences: in 1998 a symposium on "Ethnological and Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Death", and in 2000 a conference on "Food and Celebration, from Fasting to Feasting", the first meeting of Music and Minorities group and a conference of three ICOM committees: CIMUSET, ICTOP, MPT.

The Slovene Ethnographic Museum is a member of the Network of European Ethnographic Museums (NET) and since 2002 it has also been a member of the Association of European Migration Institutions (AEMI), itself also a member of ICOM and ICOM-CIDOC.

See also

Other ethnographic collections in Slovenia

Related collections

External links


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