Currently comprising 3 984 cultural goods, the Foreign Countries Collection of the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant is made up of traditional household and decorative objects from international exchanges and collaborations that provide a sound basis for comparative research for a better understanding of the participation of different peoples in the creation of universal cultural heritage.
The Foreign Countries Collection is made up of objects representative of the traditional creations of European and non-European countries, which has developed since 1959 around a modest fund transferred from the Toma Stelian Museum. In the course of two decades, through Romania’s policy of cultural exchanges with other countries and under the direction of the great ethnographer Tancred Bănățeanu, this collection has been enriched and expresses in a non-verbal language the cultural diversity of the world.
By 1990, the fund numbered 3 746 cultural goods. The largest share of the collection is made up of Mexican folk art objects (586 pieces) which have been the subject of cultural exchanges between Romania and Mexico since 1967. In 2019 the collection was enriched with another representative piece of Mexican culture, a “penacho” donated to the Museum by Ambassador GUILERMO ORDORICA ROBLES. This type of piece dates back to pre-Hispanic times and is worn on the head during the “Sun Dance”. This dance is recognised as intangible cultural heritage, belonging to several communities in the Valle Central region. The collection includes pieces of traditional culture-specific clothing, silver jewellery made by hammering and casting techniques, bead and wax objects made of pumpkin shells, wood carvings, “spirits” made of brown amate paper telling about harvesting customs and other objects related to the Catholic feast of “Lumnatia” on November 2nd. This is when they eat shin-shaped bread. Bakers fill their shop windows with piles of sugar moulded skulls with green, red or any colour eyes. A first name is written on the forehead on a strip of paper, and the person bearing this first name is given this gift. On the night of November 2nd, the deceased’s favourite flowers and sweets are placed on the grave. Children turn the gourd into a skull by hollowing out eye, nose and mouth cavities and fix a candle inside. In the houses, altars of the dead are erected, prayers are said so that the deceased may find peace and not disturb the living. These otherworldly customs are represented by objects such as printed paper, masks, a small table with gifts, dolls, drawings, offerings, onyx fruit, pewter figurines. Also noteworthy are the bone objects: combs, knives.
Exceptions include cultural goods from Macedonia, where wool is used in abundance for costumes, baskets and fabrics, as one of the traditional occupations in these mountain areas has always been sheep farming. Some of these pieces are cultural goods proposed for classification in the Romanian cultural heritage. In the treasure category there are also ornaments, decorative pieces and household items, pieces with stylistic and identity value for the Aromanians. A total of 39 traditional cultural goods from the Aromanian culture are the subject of the classification file compiled in 2019: women’s sarica (long thick wool coat), folk skirts, women’s stockings, ornaments (earrings), brass vessels (mugs, jugs), laced leather shoes, traditional shoes, canes; pieces attesting to the ancestral occupation, shepherding. Some of the objects belonging to the Macedonian culture in the Foreign Countries Collection proposed for classification were acquired by Alexander Tzigara Samurcas and are included in the first inventory register. The others were added to the museum’s patrimony after 1960 by the director Tancred Bănățeanu.
Another category of exceptional pieces are the haban mugs, beer mugs dating from the second half of the 19th century. The most important of these, five, are classified in the Treasure category and two in the Fund category. Haban ware is a category of vessels with a particular shape, more rounded, decorated in pastel colours with a different glaze shining through, and worked with pewter, unlike all other popular ceramics. Such pottery was made at Vințu de Jos, Alba county, in the first half of the 18th century by Anabaptist settlers brought there from Moravia and working on collective principles.
An important part of the Foreign Countries collection is made up of the painted eggs from the donation of the collector Zahacinschi Marioara (155 eggs) in 1998. This donation became part of the MNTR patrimony when the painter Horia Bernea was director. Eggs waxed and painted with different techniques from countries such as Switzerland (22 full eggs), Hungary (6 eggs), Austria (3 eggs), Georgia (2 eggs), Italy (12 eggs), 100 empty eggs from Hungary; Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine with one egg each.
In addition to those listed above in the Foreign Countries Collection we also have pieces from countries such as: Arabia – ornaments, Austria – beer mugs, Bosnia – Serbia – straw objects, Bulgaria – decorative objects, China – traditional decorative objects, household vessels, ornaments, Chile – decorative vessels, Korea – ornaments, decorative objects, household vessels, Denmark – fragments of fabrics (tea towels) dating back to the beginning of the 19th century, Hungary – interior fabrics, India – traditional folk objects, Vietnam – musical instruments and decorative objects, Germany – toys, Peru – decorative objects, Poland – decorative objects, Netherlands – household vessels, USSR – ornaments, decorative objects, household vessels from the Simu Museum donation of 1966.
We conclude with a few general observations: During the period of its creation, the collection was very dynamic due to the policy of cultural exchanges between countries. After the establishment of the Romanian Peasant Museum, 238 cultural goods of folk art, mainly from donations, entered the collection.
In the permanent exhibition of the museum will also be exhibited objects from the collection of Foreign Countries in the room “Laolaltă” (Together). In its entirety, the collection includes cultural goods that have a documentary, educational, recreational, illustrative role and can be used in exhibitions and other museum events.