The exhibition “Bohinj and Leather”, made by the Technical Museum of Slovenia, is on display in one of the rooms of the Godec homestead in Bohinjska Bistrica, where a tannery operated in the early 20th century, and now hosts the Tomaž Godec Museum, under the auspices of the Gorenjska Museum.
The exhibition is divided in several chapters, which focus on the following themes:
- Tanning and shoemaking traditions in Bohinj
Bohinj has a rich history of livestock breeding, which supplied the basic raw material to produce leather. The oldest so far found mentions of craftsmanship professions of cobbler and tanner dates to a census survey from 1749.
In the first half of the 20th century, two tanneries operated in Bohinjska Bistrica: the Sodja and Godec leather workshops. The largest consumers of leather were cobblers and saddlers. Between 1890 and 1910, Bohinjska Bistrica was, with around 660 to 870 inhabitants, a true “shoemaking village” as more than ten locals and several foreigners were crafting shoes. One or two cobblers were also present in other villages in Bohinj. Following World War II, shoes were being made and repaired by two new companies: Local Shoemaking Company Zlatorog in Srednja vas and the Local Shoemaking Company Triglav in Bohinjska Bistrica.
- The Sodja Tannery
At the end of the 19th century, it was Jožef Sodja, locally known as Skalovčev, who was tanning skins for the people of Bohinj in the village’s upper part. Following his father’s death in 1923, the business was continued by Ivan Sodja. In 1939, Ivan’s son Nikolaj took over the family business, but had to flee to Carinthia in 1944, under the threat of execution. Both the workshop and shop were confiscated after the war.
- The Godec Tannery
Its first owner Jurij Godec arranged a leather tanning workshop in a newly built house by the Bistrica stream in 1900. He trained his youngest son Tomaž Godec as an assistant, who then took over the workshop in 1927 and managed it by the middle of 1941, when he was caught by the Germans and executed as a hostage in Mauthausen on 20 April 1942. As the war ended, his brother Blaž Godec opened a collection centre for skins and hides in the house.
- From raw skin to leather
The process of manual leather tanning was reconstructed at the Tomaž Godec Tannery for the first time in 1978 on the basis of traditions, preserved tools and collected data on the former tannery. Tomaž Godec tanned cowhides and pigskins as well as lamb and deerskin. For the tanning process, he would use spruce bark and oak tannins. The full process of tanning, from the preparations to the finishing, is presented in detail on the panels and with the appropriate tools. Individual tasks of the tanner are also presented through videos and on a computer screen.
- Tannery Tools
Tanners used different tools in their manual craft, especially knives. Their tools were of much value, which is why they took good care of them. The exhibition presents various knives used in the preparation of skins and hides and knives for tanning, and the knives used after the process was finished.
Author of the exhibition: Milojka Čepon
Collaborators: Anja Poštrak, Ignac Jeršinovič, Niko Šušteršič
Photography: TMS, Marija Sodja
Exhibition design and installation: Ariana Furlan Prijon, Tjaša Štempihar
Publication design: Tjaša Štempihar
Lighting design: Marjan Visković
Conservation and restoration of the artefacts: TMS Restoration workshop
Audio and video: Studio Cotič Trojer, Lambda d. o.o.
Joinery works: TMS
Exhibition equipment: Jernej Debevec
Language editing and translation: Melita Silič