I was especially interested in the ethnographic display in the museum which included some flax heckling boards. I have been working on an 18th century flax mill near Glasgow and so it was great to see how the hand heckling technique worked. One handle was for the foot and the other for one hand. The flax was then thrashed against the heckling spikes to straighten the flax fibres ready for spinning. This technique would have been used in Scotland prior to the construction of water mills. Apparently there were a couple of water mills in Lišov in the 19th century, but they have been demolished. Corn mills were often used for other purposes such as flax mills and saw mills. Flax was grown in this area in the past and according to Jacob there are old flax soaking ponds in the area.
This is one of the faces of Walltopia – a Bulgaria company and a global leader in climbing wall manufacture. It belongs to the Mountain Guides training school in Troyan on the Devistashko Plateau, established in 2013. Marco, one of the teachers here, tells us that students arrive aged 14, and leave six years later with a range of skills including cultural tourism, mountain biking skills, navigation and first aid.
Looking to the communities of the past can directly inspire the answers to these questions. Maybe people could connect to their heritage to feel a sense of place, a sense of identity and ‘rootedness’, in a way that is relevant to their lives. Maybe wider communities can be created in museums by ensuring that people from disenfranchised backgrounds find a ‘home’ and share learning possibilities in the museum environment. Maybe it is extending beyond the academic/intellectual framework that informs traditional museum culture, to also engage with, in a sustainable way, skilled craftspeople, artists, storytellers and musicians to form creative spaces, who intersect with, and are informed by, the collections held in the museum. Maybe by having such an inclusive environment, we can directly mirror the coherent, collectively organised communities of the past.
Much like in Scotland, turf building is in serious decline, this leads to a skills shortage and a danger that the skills might eventually be lost.
The beauty of turf building is that it has evolved over generations in response to factors such as the socioeconomic
changes, materials shortage and the effects of the everchanging climate climate.
Thankfully, the work that Skagafjörður Heritage Museum is doing, helps to keep the skills and knowledge alive.
Near Lišov is a c200km long linear monument, part of a massive network of similar sites stretching from the Czech Republic to the Black Sea. This section near Lišov runs approximately North-South and was once thought to be defensive, however a number of theories have been proposed to explain its massive construction. They are thought to be Neolithic and their relationship to tributaries of the Danube, and the Danube itself appear to be important. The monument is reminiscent of the Cleaven Dyke, Perth and Kinross, a complex earthwork comprising a pair of parallel ditches (c.45-5om apart), with a central bank, running for 1.8km through woodland and for a further 350m as a cropmark.
Impressions of Lisov and its culture heritage
Vernacular architecture, construction methods, techniques and associated crafts and skills, is a lesson of the past for the future.
Architecture established and resulting, including from construction approaches, is a unique component of a locations’ culture just as much as its language, music, art, literature or food. Architecture is also the most visual of those cultural components; conveying a unique image. This is called “genius loci,” the “spirit of a place”.
Our guide was Velislava Chilingirova, who turned out not only to be eminently knowledgeable and unfailingly skilled at group management, but also patient, generous, warm, funny and full of life; in short, a terrific ambassador not only for Bulgaria but also for the programme. Through Velis’s vast network of contacts, we as a group were privileged to be treated to site and museum visits that covered the full spectrum of Bulgaria’s heritage, all the while learning from practitioners who enthusiastically shared their expertise and experience. In addition, Velis made special arrangements to visit places and people not on the original programme;