EXPO Postojna Cave Karst

Postojna Cave in space and time

This is the first exhibition in Slovenia where visitors are able to view a 3D computer model of the cave system, which outside the framework of the cave space presents the history of Slovenia over the last two centuries.

Slovenia boasts a rich subterranean realm. The country’s most famous cave globally, and its most visited karstic cave, is Postojna. This natural jewel and its history can now be seen at the EXPO Cave Karst exhibition. The exhibition will be of interest both for visitors encountering the Karst and caves for the first time, as well as for experts. At the same time it offers a unique view of the principle of sustainable development.
The topics presented describe the cave in space and time, with emphasis on its natural and cultural heritage in the world sense, and human activities around and in the cave since the earliest humans, the periods before and after discovery of the inner parts of the cave, and human activities of exploration and developing modern cave tourism up to the present day. The exhibition EXPO Cave Karst  is intended for anyone interested in the wider historical and social context that led to this Slovenian cave being the most famous subterranean tourist cave in the world.

The exhibition

Special attention is paid to the youngest visitors, who are led through the exhibition interactively by a proteus and cave beetle, and who can even try driving the real cave train. A fun and interactive was to learn.

The exhibition collection was opened after 111 years of aspirations and concepts that flowed from the first idea of setting up a Postojna Cave museum. The Postojna Cave company, which secured the collaboration of the Karst Research Institute of Slovenia’s Academy of Sciences and Arts in the project, has fulfilled its mission in an outstanding manner. Such projects are generally under public ownership, and a special feature of the EXPO Cave Karst exhibition is that it is a private endeavour.

Marjan Batagelj, CEO of the Postojna Cave company, says: “EXPO Cave Karst constitutes a major enhancement to the existing attractions, and an upgrading of the interpretations to date of the cave through the use of new content which previously visitors did not encounter. With the biggest permanent exhibition on the cave and karstic phenomena in the world, we are fulfilling the dreams of numerous administrators and those in previous generations who worked to put such ideas into practice, although their completion  kept getting put off into the future.”

Nadja Zupan Hajna, who was the lead expert in setting up the permanent exhibition, notes that: “Postojna Cave is the biggest tourist cave in Slovenia and Europe as a whole, and its fame around the world has been achieved through nearly 200 years of intensive tourism development. The cave boasts a great many superlatives of natural and cultural importance, and as such is a priceless asset that must be well managed and preserved for future generations.”
Using interactive presentations, the exhibition is a testament to the emergence and extraordinary history of tourism at Postojna. Visitors can get more familiar with the Karst and related phenomena through the projections of various content on a three-dimensional model, and can discover the special features of the karstic environment and the world-scale superlatives of Postojna Cave on the Wall of Fame. The whole experience is instructive, interactive, and fun. After touring the exhibition, visitors can also watch a 13-minute video on the creation of karstic terrain, as well as enjoy two other free exhibitions: Life Within a Billion Years and Butterflies of the World.

Presentation in space and time

Humans first appear in as Ice Age cave dwellers, then through history their role changes, and they become explorers of the cave.

One result of the knowledge and collaboration of experts at Postojna Caveand the Karst Research Institute is that the cave is presented in such a way that visitors learn about the natural evolution and development of tourism at this site, as well as the importance of the cave, in space and time, with the use of new technologies and methods of interpretation.

As Nadja Zupan Hajna says: “The biggest challenge was how to present the cave and the science of it in a way that would be interesting for the diverse range of visitors, who are all ages, of differing education levels and from completely different cultural environments.”

Different themes are therefore presented separately, but are linked by a common thread – Postojna Cave in space and time.  First of all there is a presentation of the superlatives for which the cave is famous, then its position in the physical environment, then the geology – for without the right kind of rock there is no karstic terrain or caves – and then the surface terrain, which is shown schematically on the surface from the Pivka sinkhole into Postojna Cave to the source of the River Ljubljanica at Vrhnika. The creation of caves is described, and we see the ‘personal details’ of Postojna Cave, its inanimate and animate dimensions, the characteristics of water percolating through karstic rock, the pollution of caves and karstic land, how humans used caves and experienced them in the past, what was known about the cave before the major discovery of its inner sections, cave exploration, preparation of the cave for tourist visits and the development of the necessary infrastructure and guide service, managing the cave over time, advertising, events, underground mail and art.

Principle of sustainable development

Within the main theme, one of the subthemes is devoted entirely to an interpretation of what a karstic aquifer signifies in terms of water supply, and just how vulnerable the subterranean karstic features and groundwater are. Indeed, due to the perforated cave structure, the purifying power of the aquifer is extremely low. As part of the exhibition, visitors are also shown the story of discovering the secret of how the proteus or olm (the famed little dragon of the cave) reproduces, in the form of video morphing.

A story of you and me

The exhibition is truly a story of space and time, but at the same time something more. It is a story of us, you and me – who we are, what arouses our interest, what kind of environment we live in, why we are how we are, and how we must respect nature, so that one morning another piece of the mosaic can be added: the story of our space and the time that we live in, which those who come after us will learn.

Text by Tanja Glogovčan
Photo: Postojna Cave Archives