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Gewerkenegg Castle – The Idrija Municipal Museum

Dominating over the old town, Idrija's castle has preserved its historical name, Gewerkenegg, which in German means mine castle. It was built in the period from 1522-1533 for the needs of the mercury mine. Initially used to store wheat and mercury, the castle was later occupied by the mine administration for more than 400 years. Over the centuries, it has also housed various offices, schools and residents. In the mid 18th century, the Renaissance castle complex with its three round corner towers and single front tower was renovated in baroque style and painted with decorative frescoes. Its present-day appearance dates back to the first half of the 1990's. Today, the castle is used for museum activities, the music school and, to a smaller extent, restaurants and shops.

The Municipal Museum has its administrative offices at Gewerkenegg Castle, which also houses the Museum's main permanent exhibition, entitled Five Centuries of the Mercury Mine and the Town of Idrija presenting the five-hundred-year history of the mine beneath the surface and the parallel growth of the town above the surface. Technological processes, historical events, life stories and destinies are exhibited here with the help of original objects, replicas and copies, mine drawings, maps, outlines drawings, models and numerous photographs. The museum exhibition takes up the majority of the first and part of the second floor of the castle, and is displayed in 26 exhibition rooms covering a total area of more than 1,300 sq.m.
The exhibition is divided into the following sections:

- Milestones of Five Centuries,
- Collection of Rocks, Fossils, Mercury Ores and Minerals,
- Documents Tell the Story,
- View of the Town,
- Mercury Tower,
- Famous Personalities,
- Mercury and Cinnabar Extraction,
- Forestry and Timber Transport,
- Witnesses of Life's Beat,
- Historical Photos of Janko Trošt.


The permanent exhibition was completed in 2003 with a section entitled Milestones of the 20th Century, presenting the period of the Italian occupation, Italianisation and fascist pressures on the population, the German occupation, the bombardment of Idrija in the spring of 1945, the functioning of the Pavla Partisan Hospital, the Slovenia Printing Shop, and partisan units in the Idrija region. The exhibition also displays the reconstruction of the town and the development of the new authorities after World War II, the peak and end of operation of the former second-largest mercury mine in the world, and the restructuring of rural areas.
The exhibition is divided into the following segments:
- The Idrija Region
- Period of the Italian and German Occupation
- Resistance against the Occupying Forces
- Life in Idrija
- International Dimensions
- Rural Frescoes

On the second floor of the castle is also the Memorial Room of Slovene writer France Bevk and the new permanent exhibition Tracing Mercury: Idrija-Almadén.

Idrija is the oldest lacemaking center in Slovenia, having preserved this domestic craft for more than three hundred years. The first written mention of Idrija lace goes back to the year 1696. Idrija lace is a type of hand-made bobbin lace that has developed in this area over the centuries. In 2008 a new exhibition on Idrija lace was set up in the museum, entitled »Idrija Lace, A History Written in Thread«.
The exhibition is set up in three rooms and divided into eight thematic groups, which acquaint visitors with the key characteristics and activities defining Idrija lace:
- Room 1: Bobbin Lace in Europe, Development of Idrija Lace;
- Room 2: Lace Trading, Lacemakers;
- Room 3: Lacemaking School, Lace and Society, Idrija Lace Festival, and Treasure Chest of Lace.

A selection of interesting specimens presented at the exhibition:
- copies of unpublished documents and photos of lace pieces found in archives;
- Jovanka's tablecloth, a protocolary table cover for 12 persons and one of the largest preserved bobbin-lace articles from the 1970's, a gift to the spouse of the then reigning President Tito;
- evening creations adorned with lace, made by recognised Slovenian fashion designers;
- the shortest lacemaking course: 5-minute demonstration of the basics of lacemaking, presented in a video film;
- presentation of preserved photos and clips from lacemaking festivals in Idrija from the 1950's up to the present.

In acknowledgement of the exhibition, the Museum received the Valvasor Award in 2008 – the highest Slovenian award for achievements in museology.

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Knocking on a wooden rail – calling miners to begin work
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Best European museum of industrial and technical heritage in 1997
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Treasure chest of lace at the permanent exhibition, »Idrija Lace, A History Written in Thread«