Betina Museum for Wooden Shipbuilding, CROATIA

The town of Betina, on the island of Murter, is one of the few places along the Dalmatian Coast where the art of wooden shipbuilding has survived. It is known for its Gajeta, a sleek boat equipped with a lateen sail that has an important role in the daily life of the local community in Betina. In 2011, fearing the disappearance of a practice that has been so central in the culture of Betina for the past 300 years, the local community took action and formed the Betina Gajeta 1740 association. The association’s endeavours resulted in the foundation of the Betina Museum for Wooden Shipbuilding in 2015, an institution dedicated to the maritime heritage of the region. The Municipality of Tisno, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Culture have each provided financial support to the Museum.

The museum’s working group, together with Betina Gajeta 1740, gathered items for the collection and recorded stories from shipbuilders, sailors, historians and the local community. The museum collection is a witness of the community’s generosity and passion for this topic. Many of the collected pieces have been donated and many of the Museum’s texts and video material feature locals who gladly shared their stories and experience. The Betina Museum is, however, much more than a displayed collection. The museum staff organises and participates in folklore demonstrations, sailing and rowing regattas, workshops, lectures, and many other cultural events to keep the shipbuilding tradition alive.

“The project reinforces the central notion of the sea as a vital component of European heritage and reinforces community links with it. It also highlights the centrality of all aspects of maritime culture in daily life in the region,” the jury stated.

The jury also appreciated the sustainability and the shared ownership of local stakeholders in the project, stating “The initial thrust of the project came from the community itself and it was subsequently developed by professionals so as to preserve and transmit maritime cultural traditions. This has led to the creation of an econo-museum which promotes ecological awareness and the sustainable use of resources in response to the mounting pressures and challenges of a developing tourist industry in the region.”

Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding

The success of the efforts of Betina’s Museum and community is apparent. The tradition of shipbuilding is sustained with customers consistently visiting Betina to seek out high-quality craftsmanship, thanks to its excellent reputation all along the Adriatic Coast. Almost any kind of boat can be built and repaired in the local shipyards. The jury noted that “the project also has a strong entrepreneurial element that realises the economic potential of local inherited shipbuilding traditions, in response to unsustainable global trends in ship construction.”

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