A wedding chest that’s over two hundred years old, traditional costume, shoemakers’ and silversmiths’ tools, and other historical artefacts can now be seen by visitors at the ethnological museum in Gjilan/ Gnjilane, in eastern Kosovo. They are housed in a building known to locals as Hysen Pasha Palace as it was built by Hysen Pasha Milla, one of the leading Ottoman administrators of the region. It was constructed in 1887 and for several decades was used as a family home, until being confiscated by the Yugoslav government after the Second World War and used for over seven decades as a school.
Today it is one of the finest pieces of Ottoman-era architecture in Kosovo. In particular, its carved wooden ceilings make it a unique place to visit but until recently the building’s use as a music school meant visitors had limited access to it. This changed with an initiative from Gjilan/ Gnjilane municipality with EU support.
A new museum building for cultural heritage
The city of Gjilan/ Gnjilane and its surrounding area are rich in archaeological and ethnological artefacts, but until five years ago there was no dedicated space for these to be exhibited. “Because we did not have a dedicated space, we had to display our archaeological and ethnological artefacts in the national museum in the capital,” says GjylshenDoko Berisha, the head of the museums in Gjilan/ Gnjilane.
This situation changed in 2016 with the opening of the archaeological museum and then improved further with the opening of the ethnological museum, which benefitted from EU support.
Djellza Ademi was the coordinator of the EU-funded cross-border cooperation (CBC) project focusing on the enhancement of cultural and natural heritage values that enabled the renovation of the building and opening of the ethnological museum. She explains that the municipality of Gjilan/ Gnjilane has a large number of visitors during the year, particularly those from the diaspora who visit the city regularly once or twice a year. “Despite this rich cultural and natural heritage, we had very little to offer visitors,” says Djellza.
On the initiative of the municipality and in cooperation with the municipality of Kumanovo on the other side of the border, in North Macedonia, it was decided to create a better tourist attraction. The Kosovo -North Macedonia CBC call was a perfect match for this type of initiative as both municipalities lacked funding and expertise.
With the support of the EU, the two project partner municipalities managed to restore the old building and adapt it to be used as the Ethnographic Museum, to construct an amphitheatre, and to create space for football, basketball and tennis in Kumanovo. In addition to infrastructure upgrades, the project partners launched an online platform with all the information related to tourism and culture in the cross-border area. They also organised folk festivals and networking events with tourism operators and service providers, and other activities for promoting the cross-border region as a tourist destination.
“The municipality of Gjilan has benefitted from a number of EU-funded projects in past years and, as with this one, without EU support it would be very difficult to implement these activities,” says Djellza Ademi.
About the project
The aim of the EU-funded cross-border cooperation project “Enhancement of cultural and natural heritage values” was to bring investments and promote the cross-border area as a tourism destination, to enhance cultural and natural heritage values through the conservation and restoration of an old building, and to establish traditional cultural events in the cross-border area.
The project results include the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage sites, construction of locations for sports and increased promotion of cultural heritage. The total value of the project was over €477,000 and it was completed in 20 months.
Photo credits: “Enhancement of cultural and natural heritage values” project
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