Vesna Girardi-Jurkić was born in Zagreb in 1944, but at the age of 3 moved with her parents to Istria. She took a degree in archaeology from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb University. Her first job was in the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula, where she was the first young curator and educationalist.
Through applied archaeology she encouraged the young to be interested in the study. She spent six months on a sabbatical in Athens, where she learned how to involve the cultural heritage in tourism, and her championing of the making of souvenirs from copies of archaeological finds was recognised and rewarded by the Yugoslav Tourist Board.
She managed the Antique Collection, and handled excavations, was an independent archaeologist at the site of the great necropolis of Burla, and then director of the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula.
She worked in the Nezactium Archaeology Park, the first open-air archaeology park. She also worked on the restoration and reconstruction of Pula Arena. She founded the publication Katalozi i monografije, Mali katalozi and was editor of the journal Histria Archaeologicae.
She authored more than 120 exhibitions, including the Archaeology and Art of Istria in Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Ljubljana, an exhibition in Venice and two in America; From the Religious Heritage of Istria, which was opened in the Museum of Arts and Crafts at the beginning of the 1990s. She was a guide for Italian, English and French in the cabinet of President Tito, assistant minister of culture and minister of culture of the Republic of Croatia during the Homeland War and ambassador to UNESCO.
In spite of these senior political positions, she remained working in the discipline. She has written about 400 scholarly works. It is thanks to her that three cities – Poreč, Šibenik and Trogir - were put on the World Heritage List.
Now she is director of the International Research Centre for Archaeology, while Magical Istria is another international project that she worked on while ambassador to UNESCO.
For the exhibition Glory of Ancient Necropolises she obtained the permanent patronage of UNESCO president Federico Mayor.
She has won seven of the highest national decorations, is an honorary citizen of several cities and won the prize of the Croatian Archaeological Association for 2005.
NB: data taken from questionnaire and interview recorded on April 11, 2003.
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