The village museum in the first communist decades and the transformations of the Gusti legacy
Revista Transilvania, nr. 1/2014
The Village Museum in the first communist decades and the transformations of the Gusti legacy
The article examines the postwar transformations of one particular legacy of the Bucharest School of Sociology, the Village Museum, now the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum. It argues that in new political context of the late 1940s and 1950s, the open-air museum radically changed its mission and approach to the collection and display of folk architecture and artifacts. The article also explores the relationship between the museum and two central policies of the socialist state: the collectivization of rural property and the construction of vast modern housing districts for the urban population.
Keywords: open-air museum, folk architecture, collectivization, modernization, model village.
Outside academic circles, Dimitrie Gusti is best known as the sociologist who conceived and directed the first open-air exhibition of folk architecture in Bucharest in the summer of 1936. The exhibition showcased 29 rural households and homesteads arranged along picturesque pathways on the grounds of the Carol II park (now Herăstrău). While some structures were replicas, 14 of them were original buildings “dismounted on site and reconstituted piece by piece in the museum.”1 The event, carried out under the well-publicized patronage of King Carol II, marks the beginnings of the Village Museum.2 Since then, the museum, wisely managed and deftly directed, has become, and remains by far the best known and most popular Romanian museum, both domestically and abroad.3 In 2003, the museum officially changed its name to “Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum,”4 thereby foregrounding its 1930s origins and firmly tracing lines of continuity between the contemporary museum and the sociological displays organized under Gusti.
In 1936, the exhibition was subordinated to a larger vision of a permanent center for social research, which never came to be.5 It is only in the radically different political context of the late 1940s and 1950s that the original exhibition, now largely detached from the vast sociological agenda of its beginnings, was established as a permanent and autonomous institution and promoted to cultural and scientific prominence. Therefore, by emphasizing its interwar beginnings, the institution of today performs a certain erasure of the ways in which the Village Museum has been reshaped – one could even say re-invented – by the early communist decades. While recognizing Gusti as a founder figure, it is equally important to elucidate some of the fundamental differences that distinguish the VM as we know it today from Gusti’s project, and to re-inscribe, in the museum’s history, the adaptation mechanisms that allowed it to became relevant, even useful, to a newly-installed communist regime striving for legitimacy and popular support.
This essay is an attempt to explain the extraordinary success story of the Village Museum through the prism of a double, rather than singular origin, and ask how Gusti’s ideas, theories and methods concerning the rural, which had materialized in the 1936 exhibition, were partly discarded, and partly continued in the early 1950s, to accommodate the needs of the political project of building a socialist society. As an architectural historian of the communist period, I came upon Gusti and his collaborators’ work moving backwards through a chain of research questions concerning Romania’s architectural transformation in the 1950s and 1960s. When looking at the rapid changes in Bucharest’s urban landscape during those decades, it cannot escape the historian that the modernist housing districts that came to characterize socialist planning were being erected at the same time the VM was expanding its site and collections. As the communist state commissioned large collectives of architects to plan and build whole neighborhoods – Floreasca (1957-1963), Balta Albă (1963), or Drumul Taberii (1966 onwards), are just a few in a long list – it also endowed a fledgling Village Museum with a permanent and specialized staff of administrators and researchers that turned it into a cultural institution of national, even international importance.
Between 1949 and 1966, the museum acquired 249 original rural constructions, a complex process that entailed the structures’ removal from their original rural location, transport to Bucharest, and painstaking reassembly on the museum’s open-air site which, by the end of the 1960s, had expanded to over 10 hectares. In 1970, its collection amounted to more than 300 buildings – not only domestic structures, but also churches, stables, mills, and various constructions linked to rural trades and crafts.6 (By contrast, Gusti’s 1936 exhibition had 29 structures, only half of them original.) The numbers relating the construction of housing in Bucharest in the same years are even more staggering: six thousand apartment units were built in 1950, 30,000 in 1960, and 340,000 units total were built between 1956 and 1960.7
In the early 1960s, a visitor could experience, within the same afternoon, two very different kinds of additions to the capital’s landscape. For instance, the six apartment towers built in 1963 on the southern side of the Floreasca lake, rose within walking distance from the recently-expanded collection of the VM, where one could see displays such as the single-room wood house from the village of Zăpodeni, acquired in 1961 (Figs. 1, 2).8 The contrast between the two realms of urban experience could not be starker. On the one hand, apartment units built rapidly, on a vast scale, showcasing industrialized building techniques and materials. On the other hand, the intimate, diminutive world of the pastoral existence in which objects were made painstakingly by hand. Where the socialist mass housing proceeded in series, the VM displays celebrated the singular, the irreproducible, the authentic. Where the socialist architecture searched for efficiency and standardization of the interior, Zapodeni spoke of primitive forms of shelter; where the towers claimed a territory through systematic repetition, Zapodeni implied organic ties to a region, a climate, a site.
And so, while architects planned new, demonstratively modernist territorial units, ethnographers and museographers (several of whom had been Gusti’s students) were organizing an alternative landscape: “A little original village, with lawns and flowers, with decorative trees and fruit orchards.”9
Different professional identities only partly explain the contrasting agendas: in a context in which political and economic power was controlled tightly from the center, both operations were submitted to the scrutiny and approval of the same organs of government (the Council of Ministers, for instance, signed the VM’s annual budget while also allocating funds for the construction of apartments), and therefore need to be reconciled as parts of a larger, coherent project of modernization within which tradition had its own role to play.
What happened to Gusti’s methods and theories concerning the countryside, as they had materialized in the 1936 exhibition, after 1947? What ensured the museum’s continued relevance under the communist regime, and what changes (if any) were needed to accommodate the shift from royal patronage to organ of a communist state? And how to reconcile the seemingly antagonistic cultural agendas that drive, on one hand, an institution centered on folk customs, craft, and age-value, and on the other, a modernist spatial language of industrialization, standardization, and efficiency? To speak about Gusti’s legacy as it endured in the Village Museum requires the historian to come to terms with the seemingly exceptional position of an institution based on folk craft and nostalgic re-creation at the heart of the communist project of economic, social, and cultural modernization.
The VM and the modernization of the countryside
Modernization and reform, under the name of “cultural action,” also motivated Gusti’s sociological theory and method. Recent scholarship is shedding light on the cultural and political positions that underpinned both the monographic campaigns undertaken by Gusti’s teams from 1925 onwards, as well as the “cultural work” carried out by student teams in the summers of 1934-1940.10 Between 1925 to the outbreak of WWII, scientific teams and student volunteers visited dozens of villages throughout the Romanian countryside, to document but also to influence traditional modes of life by introducing what were considered basic elements of modernity: literacy, vaccination, hygienic guidelines, as well as moral norms (un-wed couples, for instance, were persuaded to marry.)11
In the late 1930s, as social research increasingly doubled as a set of practical directives on how to improve village life, one example illustrates how the science of sociology extended into the production of built environments. The planning and building of the model village of Dioşti, in the southern Romanian province of Romanaţi (today, Dolj) between 1938 and 1939 was among the many sociological works that the Royal Cultural Foundation of Kind Carol II, directed by Gusti, undertook in the 1930s – another project sponsored by the foundation had been the first Village Museum exhibition in 1936. Supervising the construction of the new Dioşti was one of Gusti’s students, Gheorghe Focşa. Focşa had been part of Gusti’s sociological team since the late 1920s, conducting first-hand observations of village life. Focşa is important in our story after 1948 as well, when, as the first director of the Village Museum, he oversaw the museum’s transition from one political context to another. His long career maps some of the continuities and ruptures between the Village Museum as envisioned by Gusti, and as a free-standing institution under communism.
The model village helps explain the Gustian vision of the relationship that tied the old and the new in the evolution of the Romanian village. Based on the conviction that a close knowledge of tradition ought to guide modernization, the sociological approach to the reconstruction of Dioşti was participatory (the villagers were directly involved in the planning and rebuilding), involved close documentation of existing social structures (ownership of land, for instance, and family size, were taken into careful account) but also, and in equal measure, normative (architectural types and styles, for instance, where selected according to their authenticity, while others were discarded as “hybrid”).
Two interrelated principles characterize Focşa’s approach to the reconstruction of Dioşti. The fundamental conviction underpinning the notion of a model village (and Gusti’s whole sociological thought) was that the utilitarian art of the village (houses, tools, clothing, etc.) offered the material manifestation of the spiritual and psychic orders of the peasant world. A direct, organic and intuitive connection tied folk architecture to symbolic and spiritual life, and the model village stemmed from the hope that such a connection could be maintained – strengthened, even – through modernized material forms. Writing about Dioşti in 1941, Focşa also stated that village life had been undergoing rapid, profound and not always positive transformations. Like many of his contemporaries, Focşa understood the village as an entity that, having existed in a certain fixity in the past, saw its stability fundamentally threatened by the unmediated effects of modernity. The work of architectural reconstruction (and, with it, of overall social reform) constituted a chance to remedy to this disruption, and was fueled by a sense of urgency to protect old customs, beliefs and modes of life against disappearance, or to carefully guide their continuation into the future.12 If modern science could, and ought to influence the rural, the rural, in return, could inform the new: the rebuilding of Dioşti, by taking into account or restoring archetypal spatial forms, could remedy to the weakening or loss of tradition. Good architecture was seen as having transformative and restorative powers over cultural forms and customs: “The model village … tries to reconnect the broken or weakened thread of our good traditions concerning customs, beliefs, dress, art, craft, and household organization.”13
This view, in which vernacular architecture was much more than a source of architectural motifs, and offered the conceptual model for a natural relationship between society and its artifacts, was also central to Gusti’s first open-air displays of folk architecture in Bucharest in 1936. The exhibition granted the urban public easy, legible access to the village, its forms, products and inhabitants while carrying within it an implicit lesson for modern architecture: it could give shape and influence cultural forms.
Further proof that the peasant house, in 1936, functioned as a component of a complex social, economic, and symbolic world is that Gusti conceived the museum as a lived-in installation, the authenticity of which derived not only from the artifacts, but primarily from the integration between material (buildings, objects, dress) and immaterial realms (gestures, rituals, beliefs taking place with and among them). Peasant families (gospodari) were brought along with the artifacts to inhabit the dwellings, use the tools, work the land, and tend animals, all this on a monthly salary disbursed by the Royal Cultural Foundation. Women, in particular, were expected to go on with their craft in front of the visitors, for the purpose of educating the latter about village customs and traditions.14 Although not always the legal owners of the buildings, the peasants were nonetheless expected, in the museum’s original version, to “fit” their lodgings, and to provide the appearance of a genuine household. Many of the tools on display had been borrowed rather than purchased by the museum, the exhibition thus maintaining intact the relation that tied the artifacts to their owners and makers.15 As a result, the focus of the original museum seems to have been not only on the objects themselves, but also on the human actions that conditioned them, and which they conditioned in return.16
The village museum after 1947
Despite being a cultural legacy of a repudiated monarchy, the Village Museum not only survives but emerges as a key institution under the new communist order, its visibility and status progressively enhanced. Important continuities bind the 1936 exhibition to the post-1948 museum: its name, its site, many of the 1936 artifacts. The institution also maintains direct professional and intellectual ties to the interwar in the person of Gheorghe Focşa – Gusti’s former student and collaborator, and other staff members (such as Paul Petrescu, who had studied sociology before the war). But the Village Museum of the early communist decades is more than an enlarged and permanent version of the 1936 exhibition. A new sentiment, even ethos, closely aligned it with larger cultural projects of communism, ensuring its viability and success in the altered political landscape. I will detail here one of the shifts in the museum’s mission that distinguishes it from its 1936 incarnation, concerning the collection’s relationship to historical time.
After 1947, the VM enters the administrative responsibility of the Ministry of the Arts and, along with other collections, becomes part of a network of cultural institutions meant to contribute to the construction of a new, communist society. In 1950, in a memorandum addressed to the newly formed communist Council of Ministers, Focşa outlines the museum’s mission and its relevance to the political doctrine of the day. One of its central tenets becomes the collection’s ability to illustrate the history and evolution of material culture: “The museum will be constituted of open-air complex units, complete and authentic households representative of the diverse stages in the history of the Romanian people.”17
In the late 1930s, Gusti had been explicit about the fact that the museum documented practices and customs in existence, and the presence of the villagers ensured that the structures were understood in the present tense: “We are putting together not a museum of antiquities but a sociological museum (my italics) of the village of today.” 18 At the time, the status of the houses and artifacts as museum objects was far from settled, and if old material was sometimes preferred, it was because the more recent constructions had been “contaminated’, hybridized by “exterior influences.” Part of the artifacts had been borrowed, with the intention of being returned to the villages, where they would continue their productive life. Their value lied in their active usability rather than in their relic-like uniqueness. By contrast, as the sociological school was dismantled after 1948, and the museum’s collection could no longer be legitimized through a larger project of social change and reform, the artifacts revert to a merely descriptive function. By 1950, the museum’s aim had become to illustrate the historical processes that shaped Romania’s ethnographic identity.
In this new conceptual configuration, the same artifacts were now seen as valuable because of their age, or, in other words, of the temporal distance that existed between their origin and the present time. Authenticity of a new sort – material originality – becomes a defining criteria, and Focşa rids the collection of the replicas built in 1936. The change of terminology, from “sociology museum” to “ethnographic museum” is also revealing: “[The VM is] an ethnographic museum, the concrete expression of the science of ethnography – a science based on history, that studies the life and culture of the people.”19 The shift in the museum’s relationship to contemporaneous phenomena and practices is best seen, I believe, in Focşa’s decision after 1948 to empty the museum of all inhabitants. Indeed, the museum’s transformation under communism seems to have required it to shed its character of lived-in installation. One of Focşa’s first gestures as the Village Museum’s director is to petition forcefully the newly installed government to evacuate the houses, some of which were still occupied by a few peasant families displaced by the war. Focşa makes the case on grounds of conservation, arguing that the continuous occupation damaged the houses and artifacts. The communist government heeds to his arguments: by 1950, all the houses are empty.20
I believe the decision to no longer display the buildings “in use,” so to speak, affected in profound ways the viewers’ experience. Inhabited, the architecture had existed in the present, re-actualized daily through the villagers’ acts of eating, sleeping, working, engaging with the visitors, and so on; the structures, although unusual in an urban context and destined to be read as picturesque and “beautiful,” had remained nonetheless perfectly plausible and functional spaces rather than museum artifacts, and the public’s visits must have been felt, on both sides, as intrusions into densely-occupied private spaces. By contrast, in declaring daily use as inconsistent with its new scientific mission, the museum let the buildings recede into the historic moment of their construction, and no longer allowed them to subsist, through the human encounter, into the viewer’s present moment. Deserted, the structures now illustrate the spatial universe of the countryside through a layer of obsolescence. A display such as the one-room house from Zăpodeni, for instance, entered the museum’s collection as witness of the long-gone mode of existence of the landless peasant (clăcaşi); its cramped interiors, low ceilings and small windows could be experienced as strange, surprising, unfamiliar – and in sharp contrast with the new workers’ apartments that were becoming available by the thousands.
It is also after 1948 that the tools, buildings and furnishings on display shed all reference to the original owners. Designations change, and a house no longer bears the name of a specific family or owner, and instead is referred to by the name of the original village or region. (For instance, the house of Antonie Mogoş is now designated in the documents, as “House from Ceauru, Gorj.”) Buildings and artifacts, removed from active use, and, by the same token, de-personalized, come to be understood strictly as museum objects, arrested in time, and meant for detached observation.
That these pieces of architecture were increasingly treated as abstract artifacts is well illustrated in the case of the displaced wood church of the village of Răpciuni (district of Neamţ, in the region of Moldova), which enters the collection in 1958.21 As a result of the construction of a large dam on the river Bicaz, the village had to be relocated. Focşa requests that the village church, which dated from 1773 and had fallen into disrepair, be added to the museum collection. The news of its transfer into the Village Museum prompts the villagers (261 of them) to write an impassioned plea requesting that the church be moved along with the population to the new village site, where it could be restored, and resume its function. The villagers insist that the church played a central role in their world, invoking a definition of architecture as locus of the villagers rituals and spiritual world, much more aligned with the Gustian approach: “Taken away from [Răpciuni] and brought to Bucharest, the church will loose much of its value.” Ultimately, the church is disassembled and rebuilt on the museum’s lawn in Bucharest. If, in 1936, architecture had been used to explain its users, 20 years after Gusti’s recommendations, the users had become unnecessary to the understanding of architecture – and perhaps even antagonistic to it.
In 1936, the VM had been a part of a larger campaign to better the life of the Romanian village; the architecture it displayed was meant not only to exemplify passively, but also to actively preserve and reinforce an authentic condition, and to offer it as a possible source of inspiration for contemporary living. Folk tradition, for the Gustian team (and for Focşa in his role of supervisor of the construction of a model village), was granted agency in shaping the present. However, Gusti’s double matrix of empirical observation and active intervention does not carry on after 1948. The museum’s historicism, the erasure of all traces of active usage of its buildings and artifacts, the shift from sociology (Gusti’s model of a science of social reform having been brought to an end after 1948) to ethnography, amounts to a newfound reticence to engage prescriptively with the contemporary life of the countryside. But abandoning the agenda of cultural action that had colored the VM’s origins ought to be read not as neutrality, but as a newly-forming ideological position about the role of tradition in a contemporary and socialist society. The VM after 1948, in placing its emphasis to the evolution of the village through time, implicitly became a didactic illustration of the gap that opened between a previous pre-industrial condition and a new, unprecedented, modern and industrialized, socialist society.
The Village Museum came of age, so to speak, at a time when the communist state was fully invested in reforming and reorganizing, oftentimes brutally, the rural world, in order to eradicate certain structures of private ownership. Indeed, the Romanian state’s longstanding involvement in the life of the countryside had hardly diminished after the war: by 1948, it had intensified and radicalized around the issue of collectivization of rural land. The Village Museum gained prominence, strengthened its mission, and amplified its collection in a context of increased political pressure on the countryside;22 its collection of peasant architecture was displayed on the background of collectivization campaigns that profoundly altered the countryside in the first decade and a half of communist rule. The museum, although no longer openly participating in a reformist project, could hardly have been detached from the problem of the “village of today” and from its unfolding transition to communism. An urban population awash in news and propaganda about the sweeping transformation of the rural world, also, after all, formed the large crowds visiting the VM on balmy Sunday afternoons.
One of the first large-scale political actions of the newly installed communist regime was to engage, from 1948 to 1962 (the year collectivization was deemed complete), in surveying, documenting, studying, and, more importantly, transforming the rural world by re-defining social and economic relations in the villages through the process of collectivization. That is, at the same time that the regime supported the preservation of folk art within the context of the museum, it also carried out a campaign against the social, material and economic structures from which those artifacts had originated. The call to collectivize triggered an extensive effort, from the part of a ruling political class that was mostly urban, of getting to know the particularities of the rural households it wished to transform. To exert pressure on the peasants to renounce private property and to participate in collective ownership of land as well as of means of production, political authorities sent activists to countless villages. There, the party’s delegates would hold discussions (termed “convincing campaigns,” campanii de convingere, also: muncă de lămurire), visit the houses of villagers, and ultimately research and verify the ownership of land, buildings and equipment.23 Crucial differences separate Gusti’s sociology work in the countryside from the documentary and political work that accompanied the collectivization campaigns, the most important one being that the communist state used a high degree of coercion that was entirely absent from modes of interwar activism in the countryside. But to elucidate the VM’s relationship to larger cultural and political forces, it is important to underscore that, much like the VM had been embedded at its origin in a larger project of reform, so did the institution’s scientific mission in the 1950s coincide, historically, with a similar impulse to reform and modernize, now expressed in the project of collectivization.
The case of the windmill and cherhana from Jurilovca, a village from the Black Sea region of Dobrogea, exemplifies a moment of direct contact between the two distinct processes of agricultural collectivization and the gathering of museum artifacts. The two buildings were brought into the Village Museum at the end of 1949 or early 1950, as attested by the archives.24 The village of Jurilovca had functioned as an early test case of collectivization, and the cherhanas and windmills were among the earliest examples of private property to be seized and turned into state-run enterprises in which fishermen now operated as employees on a regular state salary – a transformation that occurs exactly at the same time as one of these cherhana finds its way on the picturesque lake-side site of the Bucharest museum.25 It is conceivable that the process of collectivizing and modernizing the fish industry in Jurilovca required new installations, thus rendering the old structures obsolete, and ready for the museum. 26 The march of socialist modernization (be it the collectivization of land and production, or the building of a dam) dotted the rural landscape with relics of a bygone era, of which the museum became the dutiful repository.
And here, perhaps, the fundamental difference between Gusti’s notion of a village museum and the 1950s displays can fully appear. The interwar school of sociology had operated at the intersection of research and reform, seeking at once to understand the rural world and to modernize and improve it.27 In the realm of architecture, in 1938, Dioşti had been an experiment in integrating modern science and modern social views, with the ancestral traditions of the village as they had been revealed through research. While the Village Museum of 1936 emerged primarily from the documentary and “monographic” side of the work undertaken by the Gustian school, it was meant nonetheless to play a role in the larger project of reform.28 By contrast, the traditional artifacts in the postwar museum remained silent about current problems facing rural life, or about their possible solutions. The artifacts had become ethnographic evidence, no longer directly implicated in a larger cultural and political vision of a better village. But in re-professionalizing its mission and seeking its autonomy from the reforms that were sweeping the countryside in the 1950s, the museum became a repository of things past, and effected the retreat of tradition from a new industrialized, collectivized, socialist reality. It now illustrated not only the traditional village but also its obsolescence and distance from the present. The organic link that had tied tradition to the modern world, and which Gusti’s work had aimed to keep alive, rescue, and amplify, was, at least in material architectural terms, irredeemably severed.
If the museum’s central role was to display the rural world, it also inescapably (and perhaps conveniently for the regime) provided a contrasting viewing frame through which the visitor could read the rapidly modernizing capital city pressing at the museum’s edges. In this sense, Zapodeni and Floreasca, to continue the example, were convincing actors in a “before and after” narrative played out on the urban scale. Focsa himself, while insistent on the museum’s scientific mission, was aware of the implicit message the VM delivered about modernized life and progress under communism: “Some visitors remember most vividly the difficult living conditions of the past, when men labored arduously with primitive tools,… lived below ground in humid and dark abodes, and lit their homes with an open fire.”29 Such visitors could behold at once the modern kitchen of the apartments in the Floreasca towers, and the ancestral open hearths, the large glass panes of modern housing, and the small openings covered in stretched sheep stomach (burduf de oaie) in the case of Zapodeni.
The display of peasant houses achieved an experiential displacement, casting historicity and distance upon its objects. Put on display, the rural reality of the village was subtly becoming alien. Although meant to bring the rural to the city, the collection had the opposite effect of producing a “poetics of detachment”, a sense of remove between its viewers and its artifacts. In the context of postwar Bucharest, where a large part of the population had recently migrated from the countryside, it is possible to suggest that it was the rural dwellings that constituted the familiar, and the apartment blocs such as Floreasca built and actively promoted by the state, the realm of the novel and the strange; as a consequence, the display of folk architecture may have worked as a device of de-familiarization, able to actively undo relations of close, personal association. On the museum’s lawn, in the shadow of the new mass housing districts, the recently-urbanized viewers experienced not only the rural buildings, but also the gulf that had opened between a former way of life and their new existence in industrially produced, serially stacked apartments. The migration of folk architecture into the city mirrored the urban migration of people themselves during the decades in which many of the inhabitants of the village ceased to be farmers to become city dwellers and industry workers. The museum participated fully in this process of urbanization, by transforming those who were once users or inhabitants of similar vernacular buildings into viewers or visitors, spectators of their own past and customs. Many may have recognized in museum displays the spaces and modes of life of their childhood, and finding it exhibited in a museum must have triggered a certain degree of alienation from them, changing them from intimate memory to object of wonder or collective critical attention.
Although the buildings in the museum were often displayed and photographed with a peasant figure firmly planted in front of them, they now belonged within the realm of rapidly moving urban crowds. Despite their folk aura, they speak not only of the lasting and purposeful presence of the peasant, but also of the encounter with the dynamic, urban and anonymous figures of modernity strolling by on Sundays.
1. Letter, Dimitrie Gusti to King Carol II, April 20, 1936. Published in Stoica, Muzeul Satului Bucureşti, 9.
2. Several exhibitions of artifacts collected during the monographic campaigns predate the open-air exhibition of 1936. Conceived and organized by Mac Constantinescu as fully-developed museological events, they deserve their own, separate, discussion. See Stahl’s remarks in Rostas, Monografia ca utopie, 276-77.
3. More than 300,000 people visited the Village Museum in 2010 – the country’s topmost attraction for tourists and locals alike. The imposing and respectable National Museum of Art came in a distant second, with 80,000 annual visitors. Numbers published in www.Adevărul.ro, accessed on January 27, 2011. http://www.adevarul.ro/locale/bucuresti/TOP_Peste_300-
4. Hotararea Guvernului Romaniei nr. 742/2003, art. 18 lit. d, in MONITORUL OFICIAL AL ROMANIEI, Anul 171 (XV) – Nr. 493, 8 iulie 2003
5. See Stahl’s description in Rostas, Monografia ca utopie, 159-160.
6. Focşa, Muzeul Satului, 4. These numbers await confirmation from the museum’s archives.
7. See Cezar Lăzărescu, Urbanismul în România (Bucharest: Editura Tehnică, 1977) and Grigore Ionescu, Arhitectura în România în perioada anilor 1944-1969 (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1969).
9. Focşa, Muzeul Satului, 7.
10. See, for instance, Raluca Muşat, Sociologists and the transformation of the peasantry in Romania, 1925-1940. PhD thesis, London, 2011, as well as the groundbreaking work produced by the graduate students under Zoltan Rostaş in Bucharest.
11. According to Gusti, the student teams were doing “work of social pedagogy in the villages, work to educate and influence the mentality and the soul of the villager.” In return, the young urban dwellers would establish lasting bonds between town and country. Finally, Gusti saw these campaigns as ways to alert and educate the government authorities to the ways and needs of the village. Dimitrie Gusti, “Învăţăminte şi perspective din a III-a campanie de lucru a echipelor studenţeşti” in A III-a expoziţie a echipelor regale studenţeşti. Catalog (Fundaţia culturală regală “Principele Carol”, 1937), 8.
12. Gheorghe Focşa, Satul model Dioşti (Bucharest: “Şcoala poporului,” 1941), 5.
13. Ibid, 8.
14. So important was this aspect of the museum’s role that arrangements were proposed in 1938 to discharge the women of the need for cooking, and to allow them more time for their weaving, embroidering, etc.
15. In 1938, the museum’s administrator complains about the many letters he receives from villagers asking for restitution of objects they had lent the museum. See the October 24, 1936 report on the state of the museum re-transcribed in Gheorghe Focşa, “Etape successive in elaborarea tematicii Muzeului Satului, Anuar Muzeul Satului (1970): 7
16. In preparation of the first exhibition in 1936, Gusti devised detailed criteria for the selection of buildings and villagers to be brought to Bucharest for display. While in keeping with to the way other open-air museums of the time used attendants in historical clothes to re-enacted customs and crafts (see Bokrijk in Belgium for instance), they deserve to be fully listed: Any house selected for the exhibition should be rural, that is, without having been subjected to the influence of urban trends. The houses should bear the characteristics of the region. The houses should be “beautiful,” “perfect models of beauty.” Gusti’s instructions warned against exhibiting houses that were either too modest (that connoted poverty and misery) or too opulent. It is important to note how the original exhibition openly avoided any representation of socio-economic class. The houses need not be old. The museum was not concerned with age value, and Gusti instructs to look for houses “as they are today.” Each house was expected to be occupied for the two summer months of the exhibition by a couple of married villagers. The imported villagers were to receive a salary in addition to being allowed to sell the visitors the products of their craft. The villagers were expected to be “handsome, healthy, and inclined to talk.” They were to be dressed in beautiful costume, and they had to be altogether “absolutely authentic.” Archival fund “Fundaţia culturală – centrală”, file 7/1936. Also published in Silvia Păduraru, “Noi documente cu privire la viziunea expoziţională a Şcolii Sociologice de la Bucureşti în perioada interbelică,” Anuar Muzeul Satului: 417-421.
17. ANIC (Arhivele Naţionale Istorice Centrale), Ministerul Artelor 144/1950, p. 74.
18. Archival fund “Fundaţia culturală – centrală”, file 7/1936. Also published in Silvia Păduraru, “Noi documente cu privire la viziunea expoziţională a Şcolii Sociologice de la Bucureşti în perioada interbelică,” 418.
19. Focşa, Muzeul Satului, 4
20. Focşa’s insistent and ultimately successful petitioning of various branches of the government to remove the inhabitants after 1948 is well documented in ANIC, Ministerul Artelor 144/1950. It is true that the removal of the Bessarabian refugees had a larger political dimension, but the removal is entirely coherent with the museum’s new scientific identity.
21. Arhiva INMI (Institutul Naţional al Monumentelor Istorice), Fond Direcţia Monumentelor Istorice, Dosar 7534 – Biserica Răpciuni. Letter, dated April 20, 1958, to the President of the Romanian Academy, Commission of the Historical Monuments, Bucharest.
22. In my estimate, the museum acquires between one and three multi-structure rural households per year between 1949 and 1962, when collectivization was deemed complete. Only within three years (1957-1959) the museum acquires 33 structures. (Focşa, Muzeul Satului). The rhythm of the acquisitions continues well into the 1960s. This information comes from secondary sources and correspondence between the VM and various ministries, which can be found at the ANIC.
23. Katherine Verdery, “Chiaburii vechi si noi: închiaburirea si deschiaburirea ţăranilor din Aurel Vlaicu,” in D. Dobrincu and
C. Iordachi, Ţărănimea şi Puterea: Procesul de colectivizare a agriculturii în România, 1949-1962 (Iasi: Polirom, 2005).
24. ANIC, Ministerul Artelor 144/1950, pages 20, 21.
25. C. Iordachi, “Case Study: Collectivization in the Village of Jurilovca,” in Constantin Iordachi, Dorin Dobrincu, eds. Transforming Peasants, Property and Power. The Collectivization of Agriculture in Romania, 1948-1962 (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2009), 119 onwards.
26. Dobrogea had been an early test case of socialist reconfiguration of a regional unit. After the rapid and largely effective collectivization of the rural land, the communist regime turned its attention to the transformation of the Black Sea Coast. Holiday resorts such as Eforie and Mamaia were at the forefront of the communist regime’s embrace of modernist architecture and territorial planning, and their construction came on the heels of the reform of the rural hinterland.
27. H. H. Stahl speaks at length about the close (and at times tense) relationship between “pure science” and cultural action. Rostas, Monografia ca utopie, p. 95 onwards.
28. “Cînd intri într-o sală de expoziţie a acestui centru [of which the VM was to be a part] trebuie să vezi care sunt marele probleme ale ţării. Există probleme demografice? Şi care sunt aceste probleme demografice? ţinute la zi… rînd pe rînd, toate problemele de natură sociologică ale realităţii.” Interview with Stahl in Rostas, Monografia ca utopie, p.160.
29. Focşa, Muzeul Satului, 74.
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