Ethnographic Museum of Istria was the first museum I ever visited, and years later I worked there.

The Ethnographic Museum of Istria and Pazin City Museum are the first two museums I ever visited. From then, my love for art and history just continued to grow.

Pazin Castle and Ethnographic Museum of Istria
The entrance to the Pazin castle 🏰

From my fascination with Indiana Jones to an internship in the Ethnographic Museum of Istria

Long story short, I was one of those kids fascinated with all the movies about Indiana Jones. Later, with the same admiration, I was reading The Iliad and the Odyssey and learning about ancient times. In my opinion, the decision to become an archaeologist was a natural one. 

Since I am from Istria, a very touristic region, during the summer holidays in my third year of university, I got a chance to work as a guide in the cave Baredine. That was the first time I noticed how much I enjoy communicating about heritage and transferring knowledge. I remember I was thinking about the ways of implementing it into my field of interest- archaeology. 

After the summer break, I returned to Zagreb, the city where I studied. Luckily, that same month I found out about a student job as a guide in the Archaeological Museum. In short, I applied and got the first opportunity to work as a guide in a museum. It became clear that my dream job has to be associated with education and archaeology. Still, I was not sure what steps I need to take next.

Do you know you can work as a museum educator after graduating? 

To answer the question above – I did not know it at the time. After graduating, I talked about my plans with Maja, an art historian. Maja asked me if I know about the possibility of internships in the field of museum education. Firstly, almost all archaeologists I knew were curators and field archaeologists. Secondly, I honestly never heard about anybody that graduated from archaeology and worked as an educator. Therefore, my plan until the conversation with Maja was to search for jobs in that field.

I am so happy and thankful that I discovered museum education immediately after graduating. I started applying for jobs in the education departments of museums all over Croatia. Long nine months later, I finally got an internship. It was in the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, the first museum I ever visited :).

Ethnographic Museum of Istria

During childhood, I loved living in Pazin. On the other hand, I was always dreaming about moving to the capital after high school. I was fascinated with the idea of living in a big city and all the opportunities it brings. As a result, it was a bit hard when I realized I would leave all those crowded streets for a whole year. But then, I started working and falling in love with this city all over again.

Pazin – a small city in the middle of Istria that inspired Jules Verne and many others

Pazin is a small but magical city in the center of Istria. And I think Jules Verne would agree with me. He never visited Pazin but read about it in the travelogue by Charles Yriarte. To sum up, the Pazin cave inspired Jules Verne, so he used its description for his novel Mathias Sandorf! 

Jules Verne is not the only author charmed by Pazin. Vladimir Nazor, Croatian writer and professor that worked and lived here in another one. A well-known legend is also the one about Dante Alighieri and his time spent in central Istria. There are even some allegations that he used inspiration from the Pazin cave while writing the Inferno! Of course, it is not possible to prove all the legends and stories. However, it is clear- Pazin is a city that inspires.

Pazin cave

The Ethnographic Museum of Istria and the Pazin City Museum are situated just about the cave that influenced many writers and other artists. More specifically, one beautiful Castle is its home.

Fun facts about the Pazin Castle and the museums situated in it

  • The Castle of Pazin is one of the best-preserved castles in Istria from medieval times. 
  • It was mentioned for the first time in the year 983. by the name of Castrum Pisinum.
  • How to get the experience of living in Istria in the past? Through the interactive parts of a permanent exhibition of the Ethnographic Museum! For example, there are ways to cook the famous Istrian meal Maneštra, making pottery, going back to school, listening to music, etc.
  • There are only a few votive altars found in Istria dedicated to the goddess Sentona. And guess what, one of them is in the Pazin City Museum.
Votive altar dedicated to the goddess Sentona

Working as a trainee curator in the educational department in the middle of the pandemic

I started my internship in December of 2019. In other words, we did not have a clue about the pandemic that was only two months away. Of course, the museum had to cancel a lot of activities. But we still did our best with the possibilities we had. 

I was lucky because I had a chance to work with a great mentor, a museum educator Mirjana. At the time, Mirjana worked on an exhibition, educational programs, a guidebook for children, etc. As a result, I got the opportunity to be a part of all those activities. 

The collaborations with Non-governmental organizations and the fun part of working in a museum

One of the most amusing parts of working in the Ethnographic Museum of Istria was the possibility of collaborations with non-governmental organizations.

I was a part of two of them, both done in association with The society “Our children” Pazin. For example, the first one has been organized tour guidance. The visitors were a part of the psychosocial support group ‘At Pepe’s. They came to the museum with their teacher Letizia and volunteer Željka and interactively participated. Most importantly, all of us had a lot of fun while talking about culture and past times. Who said that history is boring? 😀 

The society “Our children” Pazin, photo by Željka Nefat, Ethnographic Museum of Istria
Source: The society “Our children” Pazin, photo by Željka Nefat

I learned a lot about museums in 2020. And I learned even more about myself

The first thing that popped into my head after my internship was: Wow, I learned so much. For example, I read tons of articles about educational programs, pedagogy in museums and exhibitions. More importantly, I also got the chance to work on many of them alongside my mentor Mirjana. 

During the time, I also learned a lot about myself. To sum up, my childhood dream of becoming a field archeologist transformed into another. Since I worked in the cave Baredine as a guide, I realized I want to use my degree and knowledge to talk and write about archaeology and cultural heritage. 

In a way, I can say that I continued to live that dream by creating my blog Izvezena prošlost where I talk about archaeology and embroidery. Similarly, another way is writing for Fun Museums. Overall the important thing is being enthusiastic about what you do in life. And at the moment it is not crucial if that means staying in lovely Pazin or moving into another charming city.

P.S. tips on what to visit if you travel through Pazin

  • I would highly recommend a zip line adventure above the Pazin cave to all adrenaline addicts. You can even see the starting point of it from the museum.
  • Take a cup of coffee in the cute little Buffet Bunker. You will notice it on the way from the Castle to the city center.
  • You shouldn’t miss Zarečki krov if you love nature. It is a cave with a waterfall upon it, situated in Zarečje (just a few kilometers away from Pazin). Also, it is one of my most favorite places. Moreover, during summer, the Youth Center Alarm Pazin organizes the Waterpolo tournament on Zarečki. In short, you get to enjoy watching the Waterpolo, high dive competition, or just chilling under the sun.
Zarečki krov during the Waterpolo tournament. Source:, photo by Lucija Dušman


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