The National Museum of Valjevo – one of the best museums in Serbia and Europe
In 2016 the National Museum of Valjevo was among top 49 museums in Europe. The museum’s permanent exhibitions are currently the most visited closed museum space in Serbia.
The National Museum of Valjevo underwent the process of thorough institutional revitalization in the period from 2001 to 2008, and as a result it turned from a completely devastated establishment into an institution deemed on two occasions the best museum in Serbia, in 2004 and 2007. The Museum was awarded the most prestigious national prize for its contribution to tourism development by the Tourism Organization of Serbia in 2011/12 – Tourism Flower Award.
In 2013 in was the winner of the annual award given by the National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). In 2016 the National Museum of Valjevo was listed among top 49 museums in Europe. The museum’s permanent exhibitions are currently the most visited closed museum space in Serbia
The National Museum of Valjevo – History
The Museum was established in 1951 and for more than half a century it has protected and presented cultural heritage of the city of Valjevo and other surrounding towns of the Kolubara District. The museum is treasuring over 24,500 valuable items divided into archeological, ethnological, historical, art and numismatics collections.
There are 6 permanent exhibitions offered by the Museum. Settings in the Museum building and Muselim’s Lodging, as well as in the Nenadović family tower are located in the city of Valjevo. In the vicinity of Valjevo, the Museum offers exhibitions in Brankovina, Osečina and Struganik. Only during 2007 over 100,000 visitors saw the permanent exhibitionss, thematic exhibitions and various public programs. The permanent exhibitions in Valjevo were visited by around 25,000 people from other cities.
The first big step was taken in 2004 with the permanent exhibition of Headmen Execution in the basement of Musemim’s Lodging, and the highlight of the revitalization process was the opening of the new central exhibition The Third Dimension of the Past – The View from the Future in May 2007. At the same time, besides the protection of cultural heritage, general cultural and educational assignments, the Museum embarks on yet another quest – the development of cultural tourism.
The Process of Revitalization
The main culprit for the renaissance of the Museum is Vladimir Krivošejev, a historian with an MA in culturology and PhD in culture management, a museum advisor and CEO, an assistant professor at Singidunum University, who says: “When we began the process of revitalization, it was impossible to renovate numerous existing items which is why we had to start from scratch, which turned out to be a good thing.
As of 2001 intense activities began regarding the building of the loft space for offices and storage rooms, the reconstruction of the ground floor for new exhibitions, the preparation of new exhibitions in the main building, Muselim’s Lodging, the Nenadović Tower, and the memorial complex in Brankovina, as well as on recruiting new staff members.
This is a continual process lasting to this day. It has enabled us to, through education and creative approaches, start meeting, accepting, developing and applying, among other things, innovative methods of museum presentation and audience animation.
His Highness the Visitor
A modern museum should not be a storage room full of old things and a sort of temple for few aficionados and experts devoted to its highness the museum artifact with curators as supreme druids protecting the cult of the artifact. A museum is a place of gathering of a wide range of visitors.
This does not mean that museum pieces lose their significance, but that his highness the visitor joins them on the pedestal of museum activities. Permanent exhibitions and various appropriate thematic programs in a museum satisfy but also create cultural needs, widen cultural horizons, satisfy curiosity, offer education, but also fun and pleasure.
The main product of this new museum is not the visitor’s right to see a museum piece and to get informed about it, but an experience he brings with him. This is why permanent exhibitions as well as thematic ones in modern museums have to be not only informative but also attractive, visually, technologically and design-wise. In addition, they should respond to the present moment and the perception of audience, potential audience and non-audience which is yet to become audience. But they should not flatter them, but by keeping its professional, cultural, artistic and scientific criteria help visitors develop.
At the same time, to keep the local audience interested in museums, it is necessary to realize various appropriate thematic programs which are short and intended for different target groups. Besides exhibitions, there are numerous museum workshops, lectures, promotion, music and movie nights, and the like.”
War Hospital in Valjevo 1914-1915
War Hospital in Valjevo 1914-1915 is the name of the current exhibition which is being put on all around Serbia. It is a long-term project which started in 2014 by preparing the exhibition on this historical process and mapping the objects. It was possible to find 29 different objects all around the city which were used as hospitals.
In collaboration with the city of Valjevo, info plaques in Serbian and English were put up in front of all the objects, which serve as a reminder to the people of Valjevo and visitors of great suffering during World War I. The main event took place in April 2015, on the anniversary of Nadežda Petrović’s death, when the exhibition was officially opened in the Gallery of the National Museum in Valjevo. As of September that same year the exhibition continued its journey all around Serbia: Niš, Zaječar, Kragujevac, Aranđelovac, Beograd and Novi Sad.
The Story about Suffering, Humanness and Sacrifice in Valjevo, City-Hospital
This exhibition required larger gallery space, and its aim was to tell the story about suffering, humanness and sacrifice in Valjevo, city-hospital, and to show everything to as many visitors as possible on different locations, so a shortened version was made in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture.
This version of exhibition has also been put on all around Serbia and so far smaller gallery spaces in Osečina, Lazarevac, Obrenovac, Lajkovac and Ljubovija have hosted it, right now it is in Bajina Bašta. One of the goals is to present the exhibition using different methods. Those interested can see the virtual exhibition on Facebook page Valjevska bolnica or on the folloing website: www.valjevo-hospital.org.
Since spring 2017 the small exhibition has been in Banja Koviljača, in the Memorial Gallery dedicated to the battle on the Drina River in 1914.
The exhibition has been translated into English, sent digitally and displayed in the hall of Northside College in Chicago.
An application has been created which enables its users to see the map of Valjevo and all locations of hospitals by using Google Street, explains Krivošejev.
About the future plans, Krivošejev says: “We have many plans. Since 2018 is the year of the big international jubilee, the 100th anniversary of the Great War, the research activities which began earlier will be continued, as well as the exhibitions related to this topic.
We have obtained the photo albums of the Dutch doctor Arius van Tienhoven, which are kept at the National Royal Library of the Netherlands, which contain around 600 photos taken in Valjevo and its surroundings in the period between 1913 and 1915. These photos have been totally unknown until now and kept in the three photo albums, and we managed to obtain their digital copies last year.”
In collaboration with the National Royal Library of the Netherlands, the exhibition of photos of doctor Arius van Tienhoven named Valjevo 1912-1915 will be opened. It will be followed by the exhibition entitled Serbia 1912-1915.
In collaboration with the Belgrade City Museum, the exhibition named Belgrade in 1912 will be opened. The Vranje City Museum will open the exhibition Vranje in 1913 on February 15th, Statehood Day of the Republic of Serbia.
Around 600 photos will be presented on these exhibitions, the majority of them for the first time in public. So far only about 50 photos have been released.
Author: Rada Sević
Translation: Marija Đurđević