The permanent exhibition When Hunger and Abundance Meet presents the eating culture from the 18th to the mid-20th century, when eating habits underwent the greatest changes, since in the 1st half of the 20th century the attitude towards food changed on a cultural level. Throughout the centuries, periods of hunger and prosperity alternated as a result of natural disasters, wars, and economic and political circumstances. Not even the upper classes escaped hunger and want; however, as a rule, the diet of the majority of the population in the past was meagre and was conditioned by the social standing of individual households.
Food is considered a cultural good, which is why the diet of previous periods is treated and understood as an important part of cultural heritage. Culinary art and gastronomy are two fields through which we can come to know cultural heritage; the changes, innovations and contemporary creativity of an individual, a family, group, inhabitants of a specific town, region, etc.; and their everyday and holidays. In societies that are experiencing shortage, food is an especially valued item; however, in the past the fundamental problem was the shortage of foodstuffs and eatables, rather than quality. In the countryside, the strict distinction between holiday dishes or dishes for special occasions and everyday food complied with the norm of a sufficient amount of foodstuffs in the house; anything better than that, was an exception to everyday life. In that time, the bourgeoisie lived differently from the nobility, and, above all, very differently from the peasants in the surrounding area. Every wealthier bourgeois family had its own cook/housekeeper and special rooms: a dining hall and perhaps a tea room. The bourgeois kitchen wanted to be a representative, family, friendly, and hospitable kitchen on the one hand, and practical, up-to-date, and prudent on the other; it incorporated fresh culinary ideas from other regions and new imported produce. The diet, the eating style and the rules associated with eating habits reflect the status of a specific social group at a specific point in time, its wealth or poverty, its privileged or unprivileged status, its abundance or hunger. The upper classes were also privileged as regards eating habits; there were great differences particularly in food quantity and method of preparation, and in the possession and use of tableware. This is attested by the preserved kitchenware and tableware of various origin, some made by premium manufacturers, with which the homes of the dwellers of coastal towns were furnished.
The ethnological collection presents the Mediterranean bourgeois kitchen and kitchenware for storing, preparing and eating food, whereas the rural Istrian kitchen is presented in the Bardinc House in Lopar. Thus, the objects on display originate from the rural and urban environment, and show the coexistence and influence of one cultural environment on the other. The eating habits and customs from the past and the so-called traditional dishes are an excellent opening topic for discussion, with which we can draw parallels with the modern times and modern topics, such as e.g. traditional dishes in contemporary cuisine or traditional dishes and modern-day diseases (e.g. diabetes and traditional food). In any case, it is a topic that offers a wide range of opportunities for popularising cultural heritage and cooperating with diverse target groups.
The exhibition is divided into three sets: objects for storing foodstuffs, objects for preparing food, and objects for eating food. It is complemented by the didactic programme "Ošterija p'r Bepu in Jući" (Bepo and Juća's Inn), which is intended for the youngest visitors; it, and the entire exhibition, was designed by designers Irena Gubanc and Mateja Škofič. The designers depicted the meal as an integral whole that keeps repeating itself using a circle, which is the primary motif of the formal design of the exhibition.