Željko Barbalić was born in Subotica in 1936, living there until 1940 when his parents, as a result of the war, moved to Valpovo, where they stayed until 1946. He attended elementary school in Valpovo, and after the war completed secondary schooling in Subotica. He first of all enrolled in an electrical engineering course, but because of poor eyesight abandoned this and enrolled in the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb University, reading ethnography and history, and afterwards chose history as his main subject.
Since he grew up in a Hungarian-speaking community, from his childhood he has had an excellent command of Hungarian. He has spent the whole of his career in the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral in Rijeka, first as ethnology curator, and then as manager of the Ethnology Department, senior curator and director of the Museum. He spent most of his working time in the field in the Rijeka region and parts of Lika, Gorski Kotar as far as Vrbosko, and part of Slovenia, collecting material for the museum. He photographed the complete making of a pot by the last potter in Kaluderovac, a fifth generation potter from the surrounds of Radovljica. He has also dealt with the topic of traditional carnivalesque figures from the region. He has worked on the reconstruction of folk customs on Krk. He wrote several texts about ethnographic research in the island of Krk, basket making in Krk, and the development of the ethnographic collection of Krk island in Dobrinj. On the whole he published his papers in the Krk zbornik. He said that his lifetime’s work was to have created the permanent display of the Ethnography Department of the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral in Rijeka, and the formation of the Ethnography Collection in Dobrinj. In his work, he paid much attention to extensive documentation.
One of his great loves remained electrical engineering, and a hobby was amateur radio.
Željko Barbalić died on December 24, 2007, in his 71st year.
NB. Data taken from the questionnaire, material taken from the Personnel Archives of the MDC, and from an interview recorded on December 4, 2003.