The Ethnographic Collection of Perast Museum, by the number and diversity of objects, together with the Historical and maritime Collections, depict most faithfully and stand witnesses to Perast past. Special value of the Ethnographic Collection is in the fact that it depicts the lives of all layers of Perast society.
Versatility of the objects contained in this collection speaks a lot about their owners, regardless of whether they were imported or of autochthonous origin. In addition to the testimonies of material culture, one must not neglect or underestimate the preserved spiritual culture since certain museum objects are directly linked to the elements of customary actions.
The Collection was established in 1937, and it has been a part of Perast Local History Museum ever since 1950.
The Collection currently has about 692 museum objects divided into sub-collections in view of their features: weapons, costumes, jewellery, furniture, flags, including the sub-collection entitled utensils (which is composed of the objects used in households and of those from the maritime collection used on board ships).
The weapons date back to the period from the 16th to the 20th century. They are grouped by their basic principles in the following manner: melee weapons, firearms and defensive weapons, classified by types, models and purposes.
Melee weapons are presented by weapon pieces from the earliest times – maces and spears, swords (16th – 20th century), yataghans (18th – 19th century), sabres and daggers (17th – 20th century). Firearms are presented by big guns (miquelets and flintlocks) from the 17th to the 19th century and small guns (flintlock pistols of different types) from the 18th to the 19th century, then several smaller and bigger cannons (17th – 18th century), whilst among the defensive weaponry there are shields and armours of more recent dates.
Special place in the collection of swords deserves a Perast sword, not only because of its craftsmanship, but also for commemorating a big battle between Perast and the Ottomans that took place on 15th May 1654 in which the inhabitants of Perast managed to defend their town and beat numerous Ottoman troops. The importance of this sword lies in the fact that it came to Perast in the very same year probably as a gift to commemorate this glorious victory, although some elements on the sword point out to the assumption that the sword might have been in Perast even before the battle.
The sword belongs to a rare type – palosh. Its overall length is 99 cm, while the blade itself is 85 cm long. By its appearance it rather resembles a sabre. Its single-edged blade was made of hard steel. On the front side of its handle, there is the engraved coat of arms of Stjepanović family, which shared the same coat of arms with Rajković brotherhood. Along the blade, on the same side, there is an inscription in Old Slavic, while on the other side of the blade there is a short inscription in Latin.
The entire blade was gold-plated. The handle is decorated in precious and semi-precious stones and silver-plated.
By its craftsmanship, the sword represents a combination of Italian, single-edged blade from the second half of the 16th century, cross-like hilted sword from the second half of the 16th century, also of Italian origin, and of Arabic-Moroccan type with luxurious hilt. The sheath was made of hard wood, coated in fine black leather and silver-mounted.
Perast sword, despite being part of the permanent display of Perast Museum, exits the Museum every year on the day of “Perast Battle” – 15th May and together with Mehmed agha Rizvanagić’s flintlock, an Ottoman commanding officer killed in that battle, make essential symbol of the celebration that takes place in the Town square, where they occupy a place of honour.
On 15th May there is also a major religious celebration to honour Our Lady -patron saint of the Town of Perast, which is followed by the custom of shooting a rooster, the elements of which are related nowadays to Perast Battle, although this custom had existed even before the glorious 1654 victory.
This sub-collection consists of the uniforms of Perast Navy (worn by, both sailors and officers), as well as of the parts of male and female folk costumes (male – from Risan and female – from Lastva). The sub-collection also contains the pieces which were worn together with the costume, like male linen body belts or female bags.
Perast navy uniforms is classified by ranks: sailors and officers’ uniforms. The uniforms are worn nowadays solely on the occasion of celebrations specified in the Statute of Boka Navy.
Until the end of the 19th century, sailor’s uniform had been everyday male clothing in Perast. It consists of black cap (“ćeverica”), decorated on the top in gold needlework, in the centre of which there is a flower made of gold wire spiral; then, white shirt and sleeveless jacket (“ječerma”) (made of dark blue or dark red velvet, decorated in gold cords and tassels) and jacket (“koreta”) (which is worn on top of “ječerma”, decorated in gold needlework on the chest and sleeves). Black wide leg trousers made of black cotton fabric. Long, usually red, linen or silk belt is wound around the waist. Black socks and black shoes render the uniform complete. Fine body belt decorated in golden needlework with leather or metal gun powder cartridges, as well as a quiver are also worn around the waist.
Officers and non-commissioned officer of Perast Navy wore similar uniform, with minor differences in the upper parts. A dolman was worn on top of the sleeveless jacket, with appropriate ranks clearly marked on the same. Officers wore calpacs which also had rank related features.
As regards jewellery, sailors would only wear a long chain at the end of which there would be a watch, inserted in between two belts. In case of a single male child in a family, he would wear an earring.
Ethnographic collection jewellery contains also female decorative objects: silver body belts, metal buckles, bracelets.
Female silver body belts (“ćemer”) – made in fine filigree technique, in casting or forging technique. During the 19th century, they had mainly decorative function, worn as integral part of female formal costume. It is interesting to mention that formerly, when folk costumes had been worn on a daily basis, these body belts were being worn solely by married women, while at the end of the 19th century, even the single ones used to wear it.
This sub-collection consists of Venetian, Austrian, Turkish and Russian flags.
One of the most important museum objects from the period of Venetian rule is exactly a piece of the Venetian flag with the coat of arms of Perast on it. The coat of arms is located in the central section of the flag (two hands holding a cross). The flag is made of silk, unevenly cut on all sides. In the upper right-hand corner, there is a Latin inscription which reads: “Top my dear parents I rush, to the inhabitants of Perast, DE SARNO“. The framed flag measures 99.5 x 45 cm.
Legend has it that after the fall of the Venetian Republic the inhabitants of Perast were cutting pieces of this flag in order to preserve them in memory of the period when they enjoyed considerable autonomy, despite the fact that they had been subject to the Republic.
Russian flag with St. Andrew’s cross was made of blue silk, and it measures 222 cm x 337 cm. St. Andrew’s cross is placed in the field and measures 188 cm x 110 cm. Captain Matija Zmajević, vice-admiral of the Russian fleet, was presented this flag by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great himself as a trophy after a big and skilled victory, i.e. the victory over Swedes near Gangut (Battle of Hangö) in Southern Finland, under his command in 1714.
The furniture that has been put on display comes from Visković family memorial museum and from Balović family. There are Venetian mirrors and maidens’ dowry chests. The salons and mirrors show the elements Baroque craftsmanship. The chests are decorated in carved motifs of the Mediterranean character and their basic purpose was for maidens to store their dowry within. As a part of a maiden’s inheritance, the chest would be taken to her new home after her marriage.
The permanent display of Perast Museum contains also handmade objects from the 18th and the 19th century.
This sub-collection consists of the objects used in households on a daily basis: tools – mostly used for fishing, but also those used by carpenters, as well as the objects from the maritime collection used on board ships.
Utensils that stand out are valuable pieces of china (bowls, plates, pitchers) made of English porcelain, and then oil lamps, better known as Florentines – as they were being made in Florence in the 19th century, also locally known as “lukijerne”. In this sub-collection, there are also bed warmers – “scaldaletti”, timer grills – “girorosto”.
The Ethnographic Collection, perhaps, tells best of the housing culture in Perast in the past. Its material depicts luxury and acceptance of mundane trends by Perast population, i.e. numerous wealthy people and noblemen in the first place. Stored in the luxurious Bujović palace, this material gives a complete picture of the life in Perast in the period between the 17th and the 18th century.