The Wheel, 5200 years

The wheel. Photo: Matevž Paternoster/MGML

The City Museum of Ljubljana is still showing an extremely appealing exhibition – The Wheel, 5200 – which will be open to the public until 20 April 2014. This exhibition was long-anticipated, in fact ever since the oldest wooden wheel (with and intact axle) in the world was uncovered in the Ljubljansko Barje. The exhibition links ancient heritage, technological and scientific development with culture and art in an original manner and even escapes the limitations of the planet.

'The exhibition not only speaks about the times this wheel was made but attempts to show how incredibly powerful the invention of the wheel had been', Blaž Peršin, Director of Museum & Galleries of Ljubljana, said, adding that 'many people believe that this invention was the most important in human civilisation'. The exhibition was created through the cooperation of several partners in the areas of culture, preservation of heritage and economy and is accompanied by a diverse programme adjusted to different groups of visitors.

'The exhibition surpasses all our other events to date. The exhibition was prepared in cooperation with a large group of experts from different areas', said the creator of the exhibition, Irena Šinkovec.

She presented the history of the wheel in three sections: the first places the wheel into its primary context – in the space and time of pile dwellings on Ljubljana Barje, with special emphasis on the conservation and preservation of the rich cultural heritage. The second section showcases the wheel as one of the most significant technological inventions, with emphasis on the fields of industrialisation and the industrial revolution, which fundamentally changed the economic, scientific, political and broader social development of Western civilisation. The third section presents the wheel on the symbolic level, revolving through different dimensions of time and space. The human desire for knowledge, exploration and creativity is unstoppable and even expands beyond our home planet. The exhibition's broader concept encourages visitors to develop their own thoughts and emphasises the indivisibility of science, art and heritage.

Astronaut Sunita Williams on the right. Photo: MGML

The Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies also participated in the exhibition, which prompted Sunita Williams, the US astronaut of Slovenian descent, to attend the opening of the exhibition, which she found extremely appealing.



Preserving the wooden wheel with the axle

The wheel that amazes all the visitors at the museum. Photo: MGML

The exhibition is also noteworthy because it posed a specific restoration challenge. This find was distinct and singular as none had been before. 'The enthusiasm over the find was combined with an element of fear, because these are extremely sensitive materials, which demand specific preservation', said Irena Šinkovec. The items from the so-called wet wood are heavily degraded and exposed to a rapid decomposition process after being lifted from the earth, due to the presence of oxygen and accelerated activity of microorganisms. After consultations with several experts, the wheel and axle was sent from the City Museum of Ljubljana to the well-known conservation workshop of the Roman-German Museum in Mainz, where the items were conserved by using the melamine method. Simultaneously with this operation, a special microclimate chamber was manufactured, which will facilitate the exhibition and preservation of valuable items for the future generations.

By Polona Prešeren