The Museum-Gallery Exhibition Hall
Kula (The Tower) Veli Lošinj
In the middle of the 15th century, the Venetian rulers built a free-standing round defensive tower decorated with masks on stone consoles for the protection of Veli Lošinj. This is a typical Renaissance round tower, with thick walls and a relatively short height to withstand cannon fire. The upper parts of the walls leant outward, which made it easier to aim at attackers. The parapet of the tower has experienced the greatest amount of changes through time, and has not been preserved in its original form.
The inhabitants of Lošinj organized the maritime defense of the settlement on their own initiative to protect their property from Turkish and Uskok raids, and from other enemies of Venice in the 15th-17th centuries. When the turbulent times passed, the Tower was left without a garrison and was abandoned to decay. In 1774, it was renovated, but the Venetian Republic was soon to disappear from the historical scene in the Napoleonic Wars, and the new ruler of the Kvarner islands was Austria, which had no need for the Veli Lošinj fortification. Only in 1911 did the Central Commission in Vienna, perhaps acting on the recommendation of the Archduke Charles Stephen, order the walls restored, but not the roof and the wooden structures of each floor, so that the tower continued to deteriorate.
The Rijeka office of the State Administration for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage began the project of renovating the Tower in 1992 by drawing up plans and collecting documentation, and the actual restoration began in 1997, with funding from the City Mali Lošinj and the Italian Veneto province. The walls were repaired, a new wooden roof was reconstructed, and the wooden structures between the floors were restored. The foundation level was established through archaeological excavations in front of the Tower in 1991, and excavations in the interior in 1997 showed that the tower was constructed directly onto the bedrock. With the installation/establishment of the museum-gallery exhibition area, which guarantees constant care for this important structure of the local architectural heritage, the Tower was opened to the public in the year 2000.
As a museum-gallery exhibition area, the Tower is no longer merely an indelible image in the memory of the local inhabitants and visitors to Veli Lošinj, nor merely a solid point in the landscape, instead after more than two centuries it has again become an active part of the life of the town, and particularly the quarter where it is situated, which is called Kaštel after it. The architectural features and strata of the Tower are presented as an indivisible part of the permanent exhibition.
The permanent exhibition of the Tower in Veli Lošinj was conceived as combining thematic presentation and chronological sequence, and the 167 m2 area available for display exhibits the most important segments from the life and times of Veli Lošinj and its immediate vicinity, as well as the southern part of the island Lošinj from prehistory to the present day with displays about: the Tower, the coast-of-arms of Veli Lošinj, the discovery of the Greek Apoxsyomenos statue, the names of the island of Lošinj and Veli Lošinj, the development of the settlement and the cultural and historical monuments of Veli Lošinj, the historical course of events, and the maritime history and most prominent seafarers of Veli Lošinj. The task of the permanent exhibition is to present the multilayered history of Veli Lošinj to the public, with particular emphasis on its famous maritime past. All of the captions in the permanent exhibit have been translated into English, for our foreign visitors.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, a gallery was also created for presenting temporary artistic shows and museum displays to satisfy the varied cultural requirements of the island, and particularly Veli Lošinj as a prestigious tourist destination.
The permanent display of the museum-gallery exhibition area of the Tower was conceived by the staff and consultants of the Museum and Gallery Department of the Adult Education Center of Mali Lošinj in 1997. The authors of the exhibition project and texts of the permanent display are Julijano Sokolić and Jasminka Ćus-Rukonić, and the artistic layout was designed by Zlatko Kauzlarić-Atač, Ivana Žiljak, and Miro Gavez. It was officially opened to the public in 2001.
The authors of the museum conception of the permanent display first used a selection of written and artistic documentary material, the analysis of museum objects, various models, and film, audio, and video records to define the thematic units. These were then taken by the exhibition designers and given form with characteristic visual details and witty spatial installations, creating an ambience and framework for the individual thematic units. The permanent collection was fashioned in the style of artistic "propaganda", and is characterized by deliberate conspicuousness, drawing attention to itself, with dramatic effects so as to underline the main idea of the exhibition with a minimal amount of museum objects. In such a conceptional artistic and museum design, the main aim is that the ideas, thematic units, objects, or depictions of objects be integrated into an apparently exhibitionistic ambience that catches the attention of the viewer, stimulates the imagination, inspires pondering, and offers an invitation to visit the Tower again.
Through the revitalization of the Tower, Veli Lošinj has acquired a very attractive museum-gallery exhibition area in the center of the town, which is in use throughout the entire year. In summer it is mostly visited by numerous tourists from all around the world, and in winter by the clients of the spa, local inhabitants, and schoolchildren. The Tower has been transformed into an authentic cultural product – a unique museum context with a universal message – through this permanent exhibition.