Exhibition “Amber – the Precious Stone of the Baltic Sea” Extended
Since mid-may, almost 8,000 visitors have seen the exhibition. At least one-third of them were guests from Estonia, Lithuania, the United States, Australia, China, Poland, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Ireland. The exhibition generates significant interest with all generations. With the start of the new school year, groups of schoolchildren from multiple schools have been to the exhibition, and there are events for families with children taking place at the museum. The exhibition has also gained professional acclaim, praised by experts from other museums, historians, and artists.
The exhibition’s popularity is attributable to the large amount of information and visual appeal – thanks to funding provided by “Riga 2014”, the exhibition has been organised so as to meet the contemporary requirements on exhibitions, and in a place with high pedestrian traffic.
Amber is celebrated as one of the symbols of Latvian culture in 2014, the year Riga is the European Capital of Culture. The organiser of the exhibition, the National History Museum of Latvia has the largest collection of archaeological and ethnographic samples of amber found in the territory of Latvia.
Amber is a precious stone that has played a very important role in the lives of the people of Latvia since prehistoric times, becoming one of the traditional symbols of Latvians. The museum’s collections of archaeological and ethnographic samples of amber showcase the distribution of amber and the locations where amber is found in Latvia, inform about the “amber crossroads” and the Amber Road, follow the continuity of amber treatment skills, and emphasise the importance of amber in Latvian folklore.
The main motif at the exhibition is the depictions of the depths of the Baltic Sea created by artist Ģirts Boronovskis – the environment in which amber is created, whereas the other dominant motif is the people who use amber in various ways. The multimedia part of the exhibition, developed by the interactive technology and audiovisual presentation and conference systems company REVERIE Trading Group, SIA helps visitors to see up close the map of the Amber Road and envision themselves travelling along the route. The multimedia environment features magnified images of the most outstanding amber artefacts to showcase their aesthetic beauty and texture. The virtual part of the exhibition also shows the places in the territory of Latvia where amber is found.
Samples of archaeological amber can be seen in display cases as well as on a female mannequin in reconstructed prehistoric clothes.
The most important finds confirming that amber was used in adorning clothes in the territory of Latvia during prehistoric times come from the Zvejnieki burial site at Lake Burtnieks. This is one of the most extensive archaeological complexes in Europe where around 370 amber artefacts were found in a total of nineteen graves. In one, where a man and a woman were buried, over a hundred amber jewellery pieces were found, dated at 4256-3979 BC, making it the most impressive amber artefact to be found in Europe, in terms of both the variety and the number of jewellery items. Based on the locations of these amber items, the woman’s stone-age garment was reconstructed – for the first time in the history of Latvia. Following a concept by the National History Museum archaeologist Irita Žeiere, the reconstruction was done by Olita Špora, whereas the copies of the amber items were created by jeweller Solveiga Vārna.
The exhibition also showcases the unique Kābeļi amber deposit, which weighs 25.68 kilograms. This amber, dated to the 12th century, was found in a sack during an archaeological excavation in Ikšķile in 1972. To date, it is the largest deposit of untreated amber to be found in Eastern Europe.
Ethnographic amber items include traditional amber jewellery – brooches, clasps and necklaces. They were mostly worn clasped to a piece of garment in Southern Kurzeme: in Rucava, Nīca, Bārta, Dunika, Medze, Pērkone, Ziemupe. Brooches and clasps were mostly meant to keep a shirt or a blouse together, but at the same time, they also performed the function of jewellery. One exhibit – a traditional 19th century costume of a woman from Rucava, displays them all – various clasps and different kinds of brooches, as well as an amber necklace.
To this day, amber jewellery implies Latvian identity and taste. In the later half of the 20th century, amber jewellery was mostly produced in Liepāja, a place with long-standing amber jewellery traditions. The exhibition also showcases contemporary amber jewellery created at Asnāte Smeltere’s “Salons A” in the 1970s and 1980s.
The exhibition “Amber – the Precious Stone of the Baltic Sea”, on show at the National History Museum of Latvia, is part of the “Riga 2014” Programme and the “Amber Road in Riga” series of exhibitions.