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Open – Air Museum

When creating the concept of the Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding, the first phase of the project was related to the renovation of the museum building and the opening of the permanent exhibition. The second phase included the design of the outer part of the exhibition – boats in the harbour, or our open-air museum. The indoor museum exhibition presents the principles of the traditional wooden boat building and how they developed their current form, while the open-air exhibition presents real functional boats situated along the small harbour in Betina in their natural environment. The core of today’s open-air museum was created by the boat owners, actually. After succesfully reviving the tradition and traditional ways of sailing in the late 90’s they started to compete each other in Latin sail regattas in the early 2000s. The small Betina harbour provided safe haven for their wooden beauties with the ideal place to berth. Over the years, boats in the port have been moored by an unwritten rule according to their appearance.

In 2019, the Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding was granted a permission for the mooring of traditional boats in the part of the Betina harbour. Pursuant to the Agreement signed with the Šibenik-Knin County, the Museum was granted a permit for the use of maritime property for the purpose of the presentation of traditional wooden boats as museum exhibits.

The settlement of Betina was founded towards the end of the 15th century. The first houses were in the area which is today’s narrower centre of town, next to a small harbour. The village has always been oriented towards the sea, and the needs of the inhabitants have shaped the look of the coast. Soon after settlement, the local seafront was protected by building a rock wall to serve as a seawall.

During later centuries, the configuration of Betina became recognisable and did not change significantly.

Cadastral map of the centre of Betina, 1824

In the second half of the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy built a new pier, a solid pier with a masonry stone wall, shifting the sea border of the former settlement to the southeast. In the same period the settlement spread to the northwest, in the Zdrače area.

By the middle of the 20th century, there was little change in the centre. There were three piers in the harbour: Novi Mul, Stari Mul, and Široki Mul. The sea has receded far deeper into the land we know today, and the coast ends with sharp rocks and boat ramps. A large number of ships found their shelter in a small harbour. They were tied to wooden stakes that were built on the banks.

Betina harbour, 1911

Major works in the area began to be carried out from the mid-20th century, and the locals initiated many endeavours themselves. At the end of the Second World War, the crumbling stone of the old pier was fixed with a concrete structure in which iron bars were used to moor boats. Numerous voluntary projects were held in the fifties and sixties. Three smaller houses which were located in the central square were demolished and a larger community building was built in their place. The old pier was extended and the main boat ramping area was filled in and turned into the town square. All the locals took part in the cementing and paving, and it is well known that every family in Betina who owned a boat had to bring ten boatloads of stone.

The stone was brought in the sixties from excavations that were created by the construction of the Adriatic highway and from a quarry near the Kokoč bay. At the same time, the southeastern coast of the town was also being cemented and paved, increasing the area of the coastal belt and the areas where houses were built. Rocks and muddy crevices were paved and turned into concrete shorelines and piers. In the seventies, the old pier was further extended and its defined form is recognised today.

The area of today’s town square and harbour have always been in the centre of Betina. The locals did not have an official name of the square but they simply said they were “going to the (sea) waterfront”. The name has remained today, and the main square is called the Square By the Sea.

Square By the Sea today

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