The Centre for Industrial Heritage was formed in 2013 as a constitutional unit of the University of Rijeka, with two basic objectives: valorising and appropriately presenting cultural heritage in an interactive and multimedia-based way. Its work is focused on establishing cooperation between commercial and administrative bodies for the purpose of preserving, protecting and purposefully utilising cultural heritage. The Centre acts as a platform that facilitates cooperation among experts from faculties of the University of Rijeka, State Archives, Conservation Office and other relevant institutions. The Centre is active in several fields, among which research, education and cultural tourism are the most prominent.
Ema, Ivana and Kristina are three young women whose hard work launched the Centre. With help from the University, they were granted two-year funding, after which the Centre is expected to become self-sustainable, and perhaps even independent. Due to commercial interests and survival on the market, the Centre’s initial focus on industrial heritage expanded to include cultural heritage in general, based on which it was involved in commercial projects across the County. It should be noted that the City of Rijeka and the Directorate for the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage have proved to be the best partners. This partnership resulted in an internet guide to the industrial heritage of Rijeka, titled Rije?ka industrija/Rijeka Heritage.
The Centre’s unique position, i.e. its commercial capacity, generates a number of administrative problems related to project funding. Its primary function, not to mention the guarantee of its survival, is commercial in nature – the Centre offers a product to (prospective) buyers. The said fact disqualifies it from applying to numerous tenders intended for non-profit organisations, whereas no specialised tenders exist in its field of work, at least not in Croatia.
Although the digitalisation of heritage and the creation of online databases linked to a specific location are quite commonplace abroad, in Croatia such efforts still represent a novelty which our society is still finding difficult to understand.
We aim towards added value, towards upgrading the existing condition, but the importance of it seems to be lost on the cities and municipalities, which base their tourism on the sea and sun alone.
Nevertheless, the treasure hunt turned out to be a successful product both for schools and team building groups alike. These treasure hunts take you around town in a different way, in which you are presented with tasks of finding certain objects at a certain location – objects you might miss during a usual sightseeing tour.
The ladies do literally everything – going through the books, creating databases, doing the sightseeing tours, interactive tours of locations and editing the website. So far, they have been more than happy with response of the public.
“People are responding to our website very well, and they contact us to give their compliments and suggestions”. The Centre is about to start work with art history students that want to clock in on some modern practical work in their field.
Since this year marks the 150th anniversary of the torpedo, we asked the young experts on their thoughts on “apologies to civilisation” for manufacturing this weapon, but Ivana didn’t hesitate to reject the idea of an apology and explained that the project is all about promoting technical progress, not the weapon itself.
If any other European city held such an asset, they would have museums, souvenirs, special guided tours to highlight such an achievement of civilisation. Nowhere else would such a remarkable piece of technical engineering be treated as it has been here.
The torpedo can serve as a platform to tell the whole story of Rijeka, and it should be portrayed in the right way because, had it not been for the torpedo, Rijeka would not be what it is today. They pointed out that the citizens never stop bemoaning same old issues like the Torpedo factory launch ramp, Galeb, Hartera, and, as of late, Ben?i?, while at the same time they forget the other important factories that used to operate in Rijeka. They say that, in general, people seem to be rather oblivious of heritage, so it is their role to raise awareness of the city’s heritage and history. They believe that application for the European Capital of Culture is a great opportunity to start talking about the city, which is particularly important for them since they see their future in this project.
For them, winning the European Capital of Culture title would represent a chance for implementing industrial heritage projects that have no chance of funding at this point, but which are extremely important both for the people of Rijeka and for the development of Rijeka’s tourism industry. They feel that Rijeka has plenty to offer, and that, just like other cities, it can also use its industrial heritage to develop its tourism industry.
When we asked them how they perceived the spirit of the European Capital of Culture in Rijeka, they responded that they had the feeling that “people have had bad experiences with the city participating in competitions“, and that we lack some enthusiasm, which is something that can’t be achieved with panel discussions and the like. Such discussions aim to inform the public and mostly turn out to be dull events, where the quarrels among always the same people add the only touch of excitement. In Ivana’s words: “We are desperate for action”, both in terms of the European Capital of Culture project and otherwise… there are no pop-up events to reach people and make them realise what it would mean to win the title of European Capital of Culture. Yet, in spite of the apathetic atmosphere in the city, the ladies have a positive outlook and believe Rijeka can win the title.