Serving two roles, for locals and foreigners alike:
An ethnological or ethnographical museum gathers and exposes different artifacts that testify to the cultural heritage of a certain community or ethnicity. It shows local people how their ancestors lived, and informs tourists about the traditional ways of life in that particular area.
So the Ethnological Museum in Pristina has two roles: as a reminder for local people and as a source of information for tourists, says Arbnora Dushi, a folklorist at the Albanological Institute in Pristina.
The complex was once the location of the Museum of Nature, housing a zoo full of bears, wolves and other animals.
By 2001, its inhabitants and exhibits had been sent to another location, so that all the buildings inside the museum could be renovated for a new type of exhibition.
The main building has six rooms, two corridors and two çardaks, or pavilions. The Ottoman-style building in front was once the guesthouse. This has three rooms including the fire room, where food was prepared and served in copper dishes – which only families with a higher social status possessed. It has two entrances, one for the family and the other for guests.
Outside, at the foot of the staircase, is a çardak. It contained women’s and children’s rooms, used to take care of the children. The door dividing the children’s room from the guest room was made of goatskin, designed to keep the house warm in winter and fresh in summer.
The doors were small as a sign of respect; you had to bend to get in and out of the room, and in that position you would pay respect to the people in the other room.
As the number of family members grew during the 18th century, they needed another building, now the main building, located on the left side at the entrance of the museum.
All three buildings contain around 12 rooms, housing some 1,400 exhibits, and a lot of history.
“The presence of this type of museum in Pristina gives a mark of identity to our city, making it unforgettable for visitors,” Arbnora Dushi says.
“Everyone should understand how important this museum is for the cultural heritage of Pristina in particular, and of Kosovo in general,” she adds.
“We can always do more for this museum. We need to buy more exhibits from families or artisans in Kosovo and display them. This would give the museum more colour and spirit, and would make it more appealing,” Dushi continues.
Xhemili agrees. “I want this museum to have more innovation and freshness. We must do our best to display the oldest things, and show more artifacts, not just the present ones,” he says.
“We need new coins, jewels and exhibits. At Cambridge, they were creating something out of nothing – while here we have a lot of treasure and should make use of it,” he adds.
He says filigree work should get more support from the state in Kosovo. In Serbian areas, he complains, “they are doing their best to adopt this craft and take credit for it before the world’s eyes, so eliminating a good part of Albanian tradition and culture.”
Serbia is still clinging on to much of the country’s heritage. Kosovo’s main archeological and ethnologic collection, with 575 archeological and 571 ethnological items, is still held in Serbia.