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Children’s Toys from the Croatian Heritage


The Ethnographic Museum in Zagreb safeguards keeps toys produced as early as the mid-nineteenth century. With this exhibition we wish to present to the general public children’ toys from the Croatian heritage, inscribed as part of the world heritage on the UNESCO list. We would like to promote interest in this precious segment of folk creativity and thereby fulfil one of the roles of the Museum - popularisation of national creativity - along with its safeguarding, interpretation and presentation.
The list of exhibits included toys made by the children on their own or with the assistance of teachers from materials from nature - wood, maize stalks, chestnuts, nuts and stone. Although the children made the toys by themselves, objects made for them by adults and modelled after objects from the local environment were also preserved. The greater part of the exhibits is accounted for toys produced by the village people in organised cooperatives for the market.
Organised cottage industry toy making in Croatia started in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, first in Hrvatsko Zagorje and Prigorje, and then in Zagora. In some villages people made toys for sale throughout Croatia but also for marketing in European countries.
The production in villages like Vidovec near Zagreb and Zelovo near Sinj stagnated until it was eventually totally extinguished. Nevertheless, in the villages of Hrvatsko Zagorje toy making managed to survive thanks to the perseverance of individuals that adjusted the range of their products to new generations.
The multimedia presentation of children’s toy production is a significant part of the exhibition. The master's workshop is presented by a several films. Over a number of years of field work we have filmed most of the living master toy makers.
A comprehensive review of the development of traditional children’s toys in Croatia again confirms that Croatian traditional culture has assimilated the cultural heritage of Central Europe and the Mediterranean and, indeed, added additional elements and supplemented it with its own creative endeavour, thus creating a complex and unique cultural heritage. Where toys are concerned, this is manifested more markedly in the regions of Hrvatsko Zagorje, Prigorje and Dalmatinska Zagora (Dalmatian hinterland).

In recent years wooden children’s toys from the region of Hrvatsko Zagorje have become of the most attractive folk handicraft products. Their expression has remained unchanged for generations, and thanks also to this fact they have been included in the List of Safeguarded Intangible Cultural Goods entered in the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia. In this way a traditional art has gained greater significance and lasting protection, and the inscription of the Art of Making Traditional Wooden Children’s Toys from the Region of Hrvatsko Zagorje on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Mankind in 2009 confirmed their importance and value on the global scale.

Author of the exhibition: dr. sc. Iris Bi¹kupić Ba¹ić