Etnographic collections in Gordailua: from here and there

Gordailua, the Gipuzkoa Heritage Collection Centre

This small exhibition presents Basque cultural heritage as a result of the interrelationship between the local and the foreign over centuries, millennia.

It is not only people and their ideas that flow; so do materials, forms and techniques. From prehistory to the present day, the objects that make up our heritage show us that Basque culture has never been limited to the Basque region.

Not everything is work-related
Leisure tells much or more about a society than work. Work talks about basic needs and depends on the resources and technical capabilities of the environment; leisure shows social and cultural trends, the preservation of what is proper and the taste for novelty.

Rural and urban, rustic or made of exotic woods, the “chistu” is the Basque musical instrument par excellence and, in turn, is a type of flute which is prevalent on every continent.

The “dulzaina”, from the oboe family, is a of Arab origin. It is a very popular instrument at Basque Mediterranean festivals and less so, but also on the Atlantic side.

The “alboka” belongs to the clarinet family. Its name comes from the Arab word “al-buk”, which can be translated as trumpet.

It has regained prominence in recent decades as an accompaniment to dances in very rural regions and has an increasingly restricted use.

In the second half of 19th century, the royal family and Spanish Court spending summer in San Sebastian and the choice of Biarritz by Napoleón III and his wife Eugenia de Montijo as a seaside resort changed the history of the Basque coast forever.

Tourism revolutionised the economy, urban planning, social composition, customs, etc. of coastal towns. Even institutional relations improved remarkably.

The French consul, Didier Petit de Meurville, a magnificent painter, documented the transition of San Sebastian from a town enclosed by walls to a cosmopolitan city.

Appopriating from outside sources
The direct importation of products provided indigenous labour, sometimes even learning how to create their own products; at other times, simply because they were better or cheaper.

Even local craftsmanship was able to benefit from industrial machinery. It would be the decadence of craftsmanship that would make a tool that was new in its day obsolete, like these bellows to inflate wineskins, made in Bordeaux.

Tractors came into existence on the great European and American plains. The mechanisation of Basque farmhouses took some time because farms were usually small and in mountainous terrain.

England was the mirror in which Basque industrialisation was reflected, based on mining, metallurgy, shipbuilding and port development.

The diving equipment purchased by Untzi Museoa, the Naval Museum, came from the port of Pasaia, but was made in London.

They were not all the same: the risk of explosions from firedamp was considerably reduced with a specific lantern. Designed in England, it was also used in Basque mines.

The balance was a very widely used instrument with various types since ancient times, but the precision balance was Swiss, specifically manufactured in Zurich.

The manufacture of paper, first as a craft and then on an industrial scale, was a very important economic activity in Tolosa and its region.

The development of paper was closely linked to that of printing. Due to its practicality and price, the “Minerva” became the printing press par excellence. This one from the Provincial Council, of the Hispania brand, was made in Barcelona.

Home made
Basque manufacturing, first as a craft and then on an industrial scale, has been producing for domestic and export consumption for centuries. Using their own techniques or techniques of foreign origin, products were created that were acclaimed beyond our borders.

There was already a watch-making workshop in Elgoibar in the 16th century, two centuries before the present church of San Bartolomé and its tower were built.

The pendulum was more accurate in measuring time. This 17th-century Dutch technical contribution was quickly adopted in workshops throughout Europe and in Basque workshops.

In the 20th century, the clock became an everyday household item and the number of watch-making workshops multiplied, first as a craft and then on industrial scale.

Although porcelain is very old and of Chinese origin, the “Porcelanas de Pasajes” factory was founded in the mid-19th century by ceramists from Limoges, one of the leaders in French porcelain.

The mechanisation of farming tools was one of the main industries in Alava: ploughs, winnowing machines, threshing machines, mowers and hay tedders, etc. were exported throughout Europe.

In the port of Zumaia, “Yeregui Hermanos” began manufacturing marine engines. A few years later, it began to share manufacturing licences with Norwegian companies and ended up specialising in diesel engines for boats.

From the neighbouring portal to Japan, from a window to the façade of a railway station, Unión de Artistas Vidrieros from Irun produced thousands of pieces between 1934 and 2009.

Where are they from?
The combination of raw materials, techniques, human resources, distribution chains, etc. can be very complex. It is increasingly difficult to determine from where something comes... But this is not a new phenomenon.

The bicycle was not “an invention”. It was a succession of different contributions in different eras and countries to an artefact that emerged in Germany two centuries ago. It was and is both a means of locomotion and a sporting element, as well as a toy.

By contrast, the tricycle, which was theoretically much earlier, has hardly developed.

Where is the bicycle from? One made in Eibar (Gipuzkoa) and another in Coventry (England) are only distinguished by the trademark.

Basque weapons, not only those from Eibar, were for centuries known for the quality of their steel, but they were not the only ones: names such as Toledo and Solingen are synonymous with bladed weapons.

From the sea to the table... from anywhere: drawings of Basque ports and traditional fishing boats illustrate texts in different languages. Canned food brands come from local and Italian surnames.

For decades, the Gipuzkoa regions of Tolosaldea and Goierri were supplied with syphons by local companies... whose machinery came from Barcelona.

Gordailua, Centro de Colecciones Patrimoniales de Gipuzkoa
Credits: Story


The Gipuzkoa Heritage Collection Centre
Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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