Pupils of the Primary School Subsidiary in Vrtovin discover the cultural heritage of their village

Makers Story
Tanja Maver Jamšek
(OŠ Dobravlje - PŠ Vrtovin)

During our 2019 research on drystone wall building and terracing in the village of Vrtovin, we - pupils and teachers of the Vrtovin subsidiary school – stumbled upon various stories about mills on the stream of Vrtovinšček, which led us to decide to make these mills a subject of our next cultural heritage project.

We dedicated the school year 2019/2020 to a research on the mills that once operated in the village of Vrtovin. The pupils listened to testimonies of elderly villagers, took photos of the remains of the mills and gathered information from old photos and documents. The research findings – narratives, memories, photos and drawings – were published in a brochure and displayed at an exhibition on the occasion of the European Heritage Days at the end of September 2020.

After that, since the information kept pouring in, we were driven to continue the research. Not only were there mills at the Vrtovinšček Stream, but also husking mills, sawmills and ironworks; the stream’s water must have turned as many as twenty mill wheels. This fact encouraged us to keep researching.

Therefore, in the school year 2020/21, our research was extended to include husking mills, sawmills and ironworks. New people were invited to participate in the research: inhabitants of the village of Vrtovin and descendants of the owners of the objects of the research. We were pleasantly surprised at the turnout of villagers, reminiscent of the past, who were willing to share their memories. The pupils turned their narratives into visual representations, posters and scale models. While looking for the remains of the objects, the pupils found quite some old mill wheels, which now have assumed a decorative role as a table, a flower pot stand or a stand for a wayside shrine.

A lot of research work was done at school as part of lessons; we also worked with the Regional Museum Goriški muzej. However, a great deal of work was done by the pupils at home, on their own or with the help of their parents. It was the cooperation of pupils, parents, teachers and villagers that led to the rich results and success of the research. 

After this extended research, we considered the existing publication insufficient and decided to revise and edit it and provide it with a better design, which we managed to do with the help of our colleagues from the Dobravlje Primary School. The result was the book Malni, žage in fužine na Vrtovinščku – zbirka spominov in pričevanj Vrtovincev (Mills, Sawmills and Ironworks at the Vrtovinšček Stream – A Collection of Memories and Narratives of the Villagers of Vrtovin). The project was presented to the public at an exhibition at the Vrtovin Primary School subsidiary on the occasion of European Heritage Days between 27th September and 9th October 2021.

We devoted a lot of time, work, patience and passion to this project and it has all been repaid when we saw the expression of satisfaction and pride in the villagers of Vrtovin and other guests of the exhibition.

This is the way Mr Peter Valič, a teacher who helped us edit the book, summed up the heart and soul of this research:

“No longer does the Vrtovinšček Stream make mill wheels clatter or millstones grind or hammers pound or saws whistle. Yet it still has its own melody, beauty, clarity, and life. This has to be made known to us and the ones who are to come. It’s a small stream with a big heart!”