EKN Grant: Wealth of Colour and Tradition, Exhibition

Main grant recipient
Desislava Popova, Projects and Programs officer, “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” National library

Other collaborators
Maša Miloradović, Library Adviser
Head of Special Collections Department
National Library of Serbia
Slađana Sjekloća, International Cooperation Coordinator, Senior Librarian, Labor Union President
Dragica Lompar, Director
National library of Montenegro
Nela Marasović, Public Relations Consultant,
National and University library in Zagreb, Croatia
Ketevan Tomadze, Deputy head of the Digital Library department
National Parliamentary Library of Georgia
Herascu Antoneta-Verginia, Conservator, Special Collections Department
National Library of Romania


Date of the activity
July-November, 2022
Official opening of the exhibition 9th November, 2022, “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” National library


Aims and Objectives

  • The aim of the project “Wealth of Colour and Tradition” is to:
    foster international library cooperation
  • popularize specific library collections
  • improve skills among librarians to organize exhibitions both physical and digital
  • improve technological landscape in the libraries with the inclusion of a new digital collection


The official opening of the exhibition was preceded by a number of activities: library funds review for records for traditional national dress, embroidery, decoration, jewellery, etc., organizing and describing the findings, digitization, where necessary, choosing digital objects for the exhibition “Wealth of colour and tradition”.

The main event/activity of the project is the opening of the joint exhibition “Wealth of colour and tradition” in “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” National library in Sofia, Bulgaria on November 9th, 2022.

The exhibition is comprised of boards of printed images of traditional national dress, embroidery, decoration and jewellery of 6 countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia. The event was opened by the Director of the “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” National library Professor Krasimira Aleksandrova. An overview of the whole exhibition was made by the reknown folklorist and ethnography expert – Phd Milena Zvancharova.  Representatives of each participating National library presented the images from their funds, the respective collection, they are part of and the overall importance of the special collection.

Among the guests of the exhibition were the First Lady of Bulgaria – Desislava Radeva, representatives of the State Institute of Culture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Center for Slavonic-Byzantian Studies Prof. Ivan Dujchev”, Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum at BAS (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, The Director of the National Centre for Manuscripts of Georgia, representatives of the Embassies and cultural centers of Croatia, Georgia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia in Bulgaria, researchers, scientists, librarians and interested in the rich traditions of the region.

The official part was followed by a cocktail reception with light traditional music and presenting gifts for the guests of the exhibition: calendar for 2023 with images from the exhibition, branded flash drives, put in branded bags.

Prior to the official opening of the exhibition, the international guests from  Croatia, Georgia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia were invited for and joined a study tour in “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” National library, including info about the building, which is a protected cultural heritage building, reading rooms, storage spaces, digitization centre, conservation laboratory, Anoxia system, exhibition and events spaces, international corners, etc. It was followed by a joint lunch and get to know with colleagues from the special collections department from Bulgaria. It was followed by a presentation session “Special collections in the national libraries. How to give new life and attract new audiences to the special collections in the national libraries. The role of a contemporary exhibition featuring items from the national libraries funds”. Each participant took the floor and gave a short presentation on the topic, followed by unstructured exchange of good practices. This session was held in “History of the book” museum in “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” National library , with a class room space and permanent exhibition – History of the book. The participants were taken on a trip through time to follow the history of the book from ancient times till today.

The next step of the project is the exhibition to travel around the participating countries and beyond. The first stop of the travelling exhibition will be Montenegro, with the support of the Bulgarian embassy in Podgorica and will be sent to Cetinje to the National library of Montenegro, where it can be enjoyed by local audiences.
The exhibition will go online after the physical one starts travelling.

An idea for further expansion of the project is to invite the participating national libraries  to contribute with more images for the digital exhibition and on a later stage to invite more libraries and continue expanding the exhibition, thus making it alive and growing.


  • Physical exhibition “Wealth of Colour and Tradition”, viewed by 1000 people to date
  • Travelling exhibition, to be enjoyed around Europe
  • Digital exhibition – alive and growing with more images and more National libraries included
  • Enhanced cooperation between specialists from 6 National libraries
  • Growing authority of the National library institution
  • Elaborating and adding to an existing library collection, by further description and digitization

Quotes from participants

Milena Zvancharova PhD, pholklorist

The opening of the exhibition “Wealth of colours and traditions”, created from digitized documents—owned by six national libraries in Europe, is a reason for joy, but also a reason for reflection.

The images, featuring elements of the rich traditional material culture and attire of the peoples of Georgia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria give rise to joy and pride. The lithographs of artists and travelers such as AmedeoPreziosi, Quido Manes, FranzGerache recreate the colorful world of the end of the 19th century—a time of awakened national self-confidence, but also of dynamic progress in science, culture and art.

The watercolors of the talented Evgenia Lepavtsova—a regular collaborator of the National Ethnographic Museum in Sofia in the 1940s, painted from nature with photographic accuracy, preserve for generations the aesthetics of the Bulgarian traditional costume, the fruit of coexistence between the various ethnic and ethnographic groups of the Balkans. From them flows the vitality of the color red, the complex graphics of the apotropaic embroidery and the diverse and whimsical silhouette of the costumes are distinguished, which reveal the social status of their owners and give them a unique demeanor.

Reproductions of black and white photographs presented by the libraries of Serbia, Romania and Georgia complete the exhibition with names and faces, among which we recognize Queens Elizabeth of Romania and Mary of Edinburgh, dressed in traditional costumes, fashionable among the rulers of the Balkans at the dawn of the 20th century. The exhibition acquires a historical density, intensifies the immediate excitement of the opportunity to empathize with the human emotion sealed in the historical frames. The Montenegrin map of traditional costumes and footage from ethnographic exhibits add another different element to the exhibition, reminding that today the place of traditional costumes is mainly in museums.

A careful look at the details of the presented images, regardless of their specific origin, shows many similarities in the socio-economic development of the societies that the exhibition tells about. Handmade fabrics predominate, richly ornate and supplemented functionally and semantically by traditional jewellery—an evidence of the rapid development of traditional crafts and trade, of the intensified everyday, cultural and ideational exchange during the considered period.

The exhibition “Wealth of Colors and Traditions” gives food for thought. It embodies the role of libraries as institutions of memory and reminds us that this role does not end with the literal storage and preservation of literary and documentary values. This role also includes the preservation of specific sources for the familiarization and research of all other types of cultural heritage, part of which are traditional costumes for example. Libraries are the main field of scientific research activity, and nowadays they are increasingly perceived as a meeting place for various audiences and stakeholders.

It is this role of libraries that I want to emphasize with today’s opening of our joint exhibition—the role of a welcoming and generous host of the encounter with the multifaceted cultural heritage. The role of an active party in cultural cooperation between nations, which has deep roots, but always needs strengthening. The role of a factor for the disclosure and recognition of the diverse forms of cultural expression, which are a manifestation of the most beautiful part of the human essence—the desire for creativity and freedom!


Dear Desislava,

Thank you for everything, I’ve learned so much from the entire experience, SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library is a wonderful place and an excellent host. I found the museum room especially inspiring, congratulations for everything you have achieved! Regarding the joint exhibition, it was an honour to meet everyone, in person and through their selected works, hopefully we’ll meet again. Thank you, Virginia

Maša Miloradović

Thank You for Your hospitality and good organization of our cooperation and visit to the National library of Bulgaria. I have also received our nice photos.
We will stay in touch. Greetings from Belgrade, Maša Miloradović


Dear Desislava,

thank you for the photos and for such a great and kind hospitality. I enjoyed in Sofia and also enjoyed in you library. You are such  a great team. Once again thank you very much for your effort in arranging another flight for me. I am so grateful for that. Until our next meeting, I wish you all the best. Nela

Slađana Sjekloća

Dear Desislava,

I want to thank you for your hospitality and congratulate you on successful organization of the event. We are full of pleasant memories thanks to you. Kindest regards, Slađana Sjekloća