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1941

  • Dr. Miodrag Grbić, the first acting Director of the City Museum
  • Devastation of the Museum in World War II

In March 1941, the municipal authorities decided that the Museum should be separated from the Library and appointed archaeologist Dr. Miodrag Grbić, a curator at the Museum of Prince Pavle, as its acting Director. The earliest documents bearing the signature of Dr. M. Grbić as the acting head of the City Museum of the Belgrade City Municipality date back to May 1941.

On April 6, 1941, Belgrade suffered severe devastation in an unexpected German bombing campaign. The building housing the Cultural Centre was hit by an inflammable bomb. The roof and the last floor, housing the Gallery of Paintings, were burnt in the fire, whereas the other floors were damaged. On that day, 251 paintings were burnt. A great part of paintings were salvaged owing to the building caretaker Milorad Milosavljević, who was taking paintings from the walls and throwing them into the yard while the building was in flames. It was him who prevented the fire from spreading and it was owing to his efforts that the Cultural Centre escaped the fate of the National Library in Belgrade.

Since the occupation authorities strived to make life seem normal, the building housing the Cultural Centre and other buildings in the city, were subject to necessary repairs, which were completed by October 1941. The Cultural Centre was reopened on the anniversary of its establishment – on December 22, 1941. The inauguration ceremony was accompanied by an exhibition of archival documents and manuscripts of Serbian writers and artists, and a book exhibition which lasted between December 22 and December 28.

Not long before the inauguration, on November 27, 1941, the City Government enacted the Regulations of the City Museum of Belgrade. According to it, the Museum was an independent institution. At that period it included the following collections:

а) Archaeological collection, encompassing objects from prehistory, the Roman, Migration and Byzantine periods
b) Medieval collection, including objects dating from the period of Serbian medieval statehood, as well as from the period of Ottoman conquest
c) Ottoman collection, including objects dating from the period of Ottoman rule
Modern collection, encompassing objects made between the First Serbian Uprising and the 1930s
e) Gallery, encompassing paintings, sculptures and objects of applied art.

The Museum was not open to visitors during the war, but it did resume its activities: it applied for funding with the city government for the restoration of damaged paintings, copies of objects important for Belgrade’s medieval history but not owned by the Museum (copies of frescoes depicting King Dragutin and Despot Stefan Lazarević) were ordered to be made, museum objects, mostly works of art, were purchased and record also remained of gifts to the Museum. In compliance with the Regulation on the Preservation of Belgrade (S. N. No. 137 as of December 30, 1941), the acting Director Grbić urged the City Government to allow the establishment of the City Institute for the Protection of Antiquities. According to the Regulation, it was established as a department within the City Museum (on March 27, 1942). In 1942, the Art Pavilion at Kalemegdan was incorporated into the Museum and it served as the Museum’s exhibition space during the war.

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