If you want to learn a bit about the lifestyle, tradition, and life in Bulgarian history, we recommend you visit the National Ethnographic Museum. Today, it is housed in the former Royal Palace, where it shares a roof with the National Art Gallery. Its history dates back to 1892 when the so-called People’s Museum was established.
It houses several departments, one of which is the Ethnographic Department. In 1906, at the suggestion of Prof. Ivan Shishmanov, the National Museum was divided into two parts – Archaeological and Ethnographic. Its first director – the prominent scribe, politician, ethnographer, and museologist Dimitar Marinov, organised the work of the museum on the European model and laid the foundations of many of its collections. He travelled to different parts of Bulgaria and bought a large number of objects for the museum’s collection. One of the greatest merits of the indefatigable awakener was the creation of a deeply positive attitude towards Bulgarian folklore and culture.
Today the collections of the National Ethnographic Museum contain 55,000 objects of the material culture of the Bulgarians from the present territories of the country, as well as Macedonia, the Western suburbs, Northern Dobrudja, Banat, Bessarabia.
The museum collection is divided into 13 different collections, such as “Ceramics”, “Jewellery”, “Bulgarian Folk Clothing”, “Copperwork”, “Wrought Iron”, etc. The immobile Bulgarian embroideries are presented on embroidered skirts, shirts, laces, and knitted fabrics, while the livelihood of our ancestors is represented by various tools of labour, such as ploughs, sickles, vessels, and milk processing tools. The implements of women’s labour, together with an iconostasis, church doors, spoons, stools, and candlesticks are separated in the collection “Woodcarving. Domestic crafts and utensils”. The fabrics occupy two collections: the “Small” – aprons, girdles, bags, gubers – and the “Large”, where the famous Chiprovtsi, Kotelen, and other carpets are kept. Also interesting is the collection “Customs and Ritual Props”, which presents objects related to the beliefs, healing, and magical practices of the Bulgarians of the past: ritual bread, Kuker masks, survachka, amulets.
The National Museum of Ethnography also has a collection of “Foreign Art”, with specimens from other European cultures, as well as from Africa, Asia, and South America, and a nice shop for souvenirs from Bulgaria.