• Another temporary dislocation of the Museum
  • New permanent exhibition

requent dislocations to premises rented for a limited period of time and adapted to serve the needs of the City Library and Museum neither provided a long-term solution to their operation nor they were in accordance with the importance and goals of these institutions. The intention of the municipal authorities was to house these institutions into their own premises in order to ensure optimal conditions for their further development. Owing to people aware of Belgrade’s cultural needs, and above all to the then Mayor Vlada Ilić, City Council members Dušan Nikolajević and Milan Nešić (a former mayor) and Jaša Protić, a three-story residential building with a mezzanine and a basement in No. 1 Kneginje Ljubice Street (presently No. 1 Zmaj Jovina Street) was purchased for the Museum. It had been the property of Aleksandar Vučo, jurist and writer. It was from him that the municipal authorities purchased the building to adapt it to serve the needs of the Library and the Museum.

The position of the new premises was apparently of great importance: situated in the very heart of the city, it was very close to the major city artery – Knez Mihailova Street, and in the vicinity of the Kalemegdan Fortress. Its spatial organization was such that only minor reconstruction was needed to make it suitable to house both institutions. The Library and the Museum were moved into the new premises in April, whereas the rite of blessing and the opening ceremony were held on Sunday May 26, 1935 However, the permanent museum exhibition, whose concept was, for the conditions of that time, modern and considerably broader than any time before, already revealed certain spatial and functional disadvantages of the building housing the Museum. For that reason, the Museum kept to the practice of setting up topical exhibitions and temporary exhibits of the most valuable museum objects, mostly kept in improvised museum storerooms, which could not ensure proper storing conditions. A small team made of six employees and two auxiliary workers, led by Marija Ilić Agapova, were putting great efforts to organize work in the Library and the Museum in the best possible way. Owing to the wholehearted advocacy by the writer Dušan Nikolajević, the President of the newly established Culture Committee of the City Council, who put forward the primary needs of the municipal cultural institutions before Mayor Vlada Ilić, the activities of the two institutions began to get a more significant support. The demands included increased funding for the activities of the Museum: the purchase of museum materials, archaeological excavations and the purchase of archaeological materials found on the territory of Belgrade (in 1933, 1934 and 1935, no funds were allocated for museum purchases). In 1937 and 1937, the Museum received larger funding for purchases than the Library. The activities gained in vigour and they now included academic lectures, musical evenings, exhibitions of books and museum objects. The first floor housed the City Museum with its exhibition dedicated to life in Belgrade since prehistory, through the Roman, medieval and Ottoman periods. The exhibition featured the archaeological materials acquisitioned during the 1920s, mostly from the personal collection of Richard Staudinger through presents from the Danish Group. Finds from the Roman and medieval periods were exhibited in the hall, whereas the most important items from Đorđe Weifert’s collection of engravings were placed in two smaller rooms.

A separate section featured the development of the Belgrade society in the 19th century through an exhibition, documentary in character, of a collection of portraits, sketches and watercolours by Anastas Jovanović made after photographs and drawings of old Belgrade. The collection was gifted to the Museum by his daughter, the writer Katarina Jovanović. As for applied arts, the Museum featured a rich collection of ceramics. Numerous manuscripts of local writers, poets and artists were put on exhibit as testimonies of the City’s cultural development. The central hall was reserved for the historical department and portraits of famous people, among which the image of Karađorđe was given the most prominent place. The period of the struggle for the liberation of Belgrade in 1806 made a separate topical section, conceptually extended by presenting memorabilia of important events of 1830, 1862 and 1867.

The adjacent room was dedicated to the heroic defence of Belgrade in 1915. The visitors could see personal belongings of brave warriors, a series of documentary photographs and works of art, which were meant to reflect extraordinary heroism with which soldiers defended Belgrade’s freedom. It was intended that the decorations awarded to the City for courage and bravery (Karađorđe’s Star, Legion of Honour), kept in the cabinet of the Mayor, should be exhibited in that room. The department dedicated to the development of Zemun featured valuable items from the old Zemun archives, among which old plans and images, seals and the old coat of arms of Zemun.

As for the second floor, one wing was occupied by offices, whereas the other housed the Reading Room for children and youth, where an exhibition of books for the children and adolescents was organized on the occasion of the inauguration of the Cultural Centre several years later. Its walls were adorned with portraits of the children who took part in the Library’s activities, a portrait of Jovan Jovanović Zmaj, several scale models of certain parts of the Belgrade Fortress and paintings of Belgrade. The editorial board of Zidne Novine (Wall Newspaper) worked in a larger room, adorned with posters featuring the illustrations of the newspapers publishing process and certain moments in Belgrade’s life, as well as the images of the editors of particular newspaper sections and their co-workers. The members of this section occasionally organized literary discussions.

The Gallery of Paintings, which included more than 400 paintings depicting Belgrade scenes, made by foreign and (mostly) contemporary Yugoslav painters, was separated from the historical section; it occupied the third floor. In words of Marija Ilić Agapova, the Museum was oriented towards the past, whether the Gallery was supposed to reflect the present and show artistic transpositions of life, as well as to trace contemporary developments in painting and sculpture.

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