For foreign visitors
THE STRAW HAT MUSEUM DOMŽALE
In this time special schedules may be arranged for groups notifying us in advance.
For more information, you may contact by phone: +386(0)1 722 50 50 (Culture Center Franc Bernik Domžale), or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adress: Kajuhova Street 5, 1230 Domžale
Open during exhibitions: Tuesday-Friday 10-12 a.m. and 17-19 p.m., Saturday 10-12 a.m. Closed on Sundays, Mondays and Holidays. Entrance fee.
Special schedules may be arranged for groups notifying us in advance.
There is also the possibility for viewing actual straw hat production.
For more information, you may contact the Museum by phone: +386(0)1 724 84 08 (during the opening hours), or by email: email@example.com.
The permanent exhibition "300 Years of Straw Hat Factory” was prepared by the Straw Hat Factory Study Club, which operates under the patronage of the Franc Bernik Domžale Cultural Home and with the guidance and supervision of the Upper-Carniola Museum experts.
The first Straw Hat Fair in Domžale
The first Straw Hat Fair in Domzale was performed in June 2013, organized by The Straw Hat Museum Domzale and the Municipality of Domzale. The main purpose of the event was the revival of Domzale straw hat tradition and promoting the museum and the Domzale city. The fair was dedicated to the beginning of the season of wearing straw hats as incentive to re-worn straw hats as the most natural protection against direct sunlight and scorching heat.
The common thread of event was wheat straw as a material for the manufacture of various products, focusing on local heritage braids and sewing straw hats. Exhibition presented mostly local handicraftsmen working with the straw – strawknitters, seamstresses of straw hats, roofers, manufacturers of baskets, hives, ornaments, toys, etc.
Accompanying program added variety with various performances of musical, singing and folk groups. Offer of traditional local food was provided with the presentation of local culinary legacy. Beside whole day demonstrations of traditional straw hat handicraft skills, workrooms for children were found out. Nearby Straw Hat Museum Domzale offered free entry within time of the fair.
Positive response of visitors encouraged us to organise event on larger scope. The Domzale Straw Hat Fair elevated in the unique event for entire Slovenia and became national event outgrowing local context. Now we can make step further and transmit an event on international level. At the setting up of a permanent exhibition 300 Years of Straw Hat Factory in Slovenia since April 2012, it turned out that Domzale were amongst most important straw hat factories centres in Europe at the beginning of 20th century. These straw hat factory centres were Signa in Italy, Luton in England, Wholen in Switzerland, Caussade in France and in Du Geer in Belgium. A permanent exhibition is an unique museum experience of straw hat industry on the wider range of Eastern Europe.
300 YEARS OF STRAW HAT FACTORY
Having been founded along one of the most important roads connecting the Danubian region with the Mediterranean since the Roman epoch, the greater area of Domžale City is the very place where straw hat manufacturing began. It subsequently spread from the Ihan town to the neighboring localities by the end of the 17th century, achieving its peak of industrial success at the start of the 19th century. By this time, Domžale had already become the European center of the straw hat industry.
The knowledge of this craft is said to have originated from the town of Ihan where one of its residents who had served in Austrian army picked up the skill in making straw hats while deployed in Florence, Italy. He then shared this knowhow with his countrymen and as a result, the craft spread across the entire Brdo region. Large sections of the Kamnik County were soon knitting straw braids and plaiting them into straw hats over the winter, the quality of which greatly improved with time. (Oral tradition)
Previously, the Kamnik-Bistrica plain was mostly planted with wheat. The farmers grew wheat primarily for the grain, not for the straw needed for knitting, which use would come much later. By harvest time or shortly thereafter, the knitters gathered the straws that were most suitable for knitting.
For the most part, they knitted with seven thin straws. They ironed the braid and wound it around the so called ‘elbow’ – a bent wooden piece – so many times that it would get to be 26.25 yards long, just the length needed for an average-size straw hat.
The people initially produced the straw hats in their private homes, that is, from autumn until springtime. They made them manually, for their own use and for sale at the local markets, but in the 18th century, the straw hat manufacturing expanded considerably, becoming a very lucrative industry. The sale of straw hats was partially taken over by the peddlers from the towns of Kočevje and Bled who were later joined by the Tyrolians from the Defereggen Valley. By the mid-19th century, there were 12,000 people involved in the straw hat cottage industry that produced an average 800,000 straw hats annually. The products sold were not restricted to straw hats, but included braids and two-handle bags as well. Factory owners like Merkužič, Vodnik, Konič, Jelenc and others often participated at trade exhibitions in Klagenfurt, Graz and Ljubljana, where their straw hats received much praise and won awards.
In the middle of 19th century, foreigners settled in the region of Domžale City and now only did they acquire basic knowledge of the craft but were also able to tap local resources, not to mention marry into wealthy families. With their entrepreneurial skills, modern organization and technology, the industry took off and significantly broadened its market base.
Twenty-five big and small-scale straw hat plants were in operation in Domžale at the beginning of 20th century, which offered employment to about a thousand workers until the First World War. The demand of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy for straw hats was sufficiently met by the production in Domžale itself. Exports were also made to other European countries and the USA, and Domžale factories had satellite branches in several cities, namely, Vienna, Prague, Linz, Budapest, Bratislava, Brn, Graz, Kronstadt, Bukarest, Wels, Florence and New York. In its heyday, the industry produced more than a million straw hats per year.
After the First World War, new political and economic circumstances occasioned the demise of the straw hat factories for the following reasons: the decline of sales, new state borders, new custom duties, the emancipation of the branches, changes in the bank system, large indebtedness of the owners who invested in modernization and expansion drives, delay on the part of the owners in reviving their businesses, and the nationalization of the plants. The rapid decline continued with the onset of the economic crisis and the break of the Second World War.
In 1939, there were only six trade workshops and three factories left in Domžale. The last factory in Domžale was Univerzale, which was shut down in 2003. Nonetheless, it is to be noted that the industry branched into other enterprises and thus has persisted to contribute to the further advancement of the city.
The memories of the last 300 years of the straw hat factory, which have been woven into the lives of many families in Domžale and have touched just about every fabric of society, still endure. One can still see ubiquitous traces that highlight this fact: the buildings, posts and signage, the municipal coat-of-arms, the Slamnik (Straw Hat) gazette or even the Slamnikarska ulica (Straw Hat Street), and the activities of various associations. Efforts to pass on ‘the story of the straw hat’ are expressed most vividly in the newly installed permanent exhibition, whose aim is to preserve and honor the memory of the factory in Domžale.