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Folk medicine

14.03.2003 - 09.06.2003

March 14. – June 9. 2003. In the Ethnographic Museum of Istria

PlakatThe aim of this exhibition is to present the results of our two-year research project on folk medicine to a wide audience. The research topic was the unofficial part of medicine whose practitioners were throughout history either persecuted as witches and quacks or respected healers. These two cases represent only extremes concerning the perception and attitude towards the practitioners of unofficial medicine. This certainly does not imply that studying official medicine is not relevant from an ethnological perspective. Folk medicine by no means can be studied as an isolated phenomenon: it is a part of the cultural history of every people, so that research on folk medicine reveals other features of the life of a community. We approached folk medicine as a cultural category, assuming different social, ideological and economic conditions in different times. In the course of research, we investigated various practices, beliefs and attitudes towards sickness and health. Since folk medicine covers a wide area, we decided to present mostly those traditions that have been known in Croatia until the present day, in both urban and rural regions. To impose more structure on the presentation of the material, healers were grouped according to the techniques they used, while medicines were classified with respect to their basic ingredients. Although some techniques are chiefly rational, and the others are based on magic or religion, it would be pointless to separate the rational from the irrational ones, since all these elements interweave in folk medicine practice. We attempted to present not only the role and status of professional folk healers, but also to highlight the role of women. By taking care of children and sick within the family circle, women contributed to health and life, but their importance was usually ignored. We also endeavoured to present folk medicine from the perspective of the sick as well as from the perspective of the practitioner. We wished to stress both the universal character of folk medicine and the local features evident from extant sources .

Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the School of Public Health "Andrija Štampar”. The Rockefeller Foundation founded the school in order to improve the sanitary and health conditions of broad social strata. The main activities of school have been the research in the field of public health and the education of the masses. The school has had great impact on the changes of hygienic habits of the people as well as on the promotion of a modern understanding of health and disease.
Although this exhibition contains many instructions on the treatment of an array of diseases with natural, empirically tested medicines, the intention is not to promote these healing practices but rather to draw attention to the relationship of man towards health, his natural and social environment and the different concepts about the origin of the diseases and their treatments in the past and present.

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with :

Additional happenings


 March 19th 2003. Pakiž Vladimir (Pazin)"Alternative healing and use of natural preparations”

April 18th 2003. Franko Zgrablić (Sv. Petar u Šumi) "Wild growing plants in Istria and their usage”

Workshops for kindergarten and school children (April 28th – May 16th)