Vukovar Municipal Museum

Ružica Marić

Director, Vukovar Municipal Museum

Gradski Muzej Vukovar

Gradski Muzej Vukovar Dvorac Eltz, Županijska 2 32 000 Vukovar Croatia

Vukovar, Croatia
European Museum Forum / Silletto Prize 2016


The Role Of Vukovar Municipal Museum In Restoring The Memory Of The Town Of Vukovar After War Destruction In 1991



Vukovar Municipal Museum

The Vukovar Municipal Museum is situated in the Baroque Palace of Eltz Counts on the right bank of the Danube in Vukovar, Croatia. It is one of the most important buildings of baroque-classicist architecture in continental Croatia. The permanent exhibition is displayed on over 3500 m2, which covers the ground floor, two upper floors and the attic, andpresents the historical development of Vukovar over the span of 8000 years. Over 2000 restored items from the museum’s collections depict the archaeological history, the historical development of Vukovar from the first written document dating from 1220 until today, the traditional way of life in the surrounding towns and villages, the Croatian War of Independence, the time of exile and return, and life in Vukovar as a multinational community today.


For its work on the cultural restoration of Vukovar, revitalizing the devastated city and involving the local community in its work, the Vukovar Municipal Museum received the prestigious European Silletto award – EMYA 2016, awarded by the European Museum Forum in San Sebastian, Spain.

The History Of Vukovar Municipal Museum

The Vukovar Municipal Museum was founded in 1946 when Dr. Antun Bauer from Vukovar donated old furniture and funds. The first exhibition was opened in 1948 in the stage-coach post office in the Baroque town centre. The museum was moved to the Main Palace in 1966. It became 4 museum-gallery institutions: The Regional Museum, The Bauer Collection, The Memorial Museum of Lavoslav Ružicka and the Museum of New History. After the devastation in the War in 1991, the exiled museum continued its work in Mimara Museum in Zagreb. It returned to the destroyed Eltz Palace in 1997 and continued its activities and events, becoming a place for artists and citizens returned from exile. When the artwork was returned in 2001, the museum began restoring its items and preparing for the permanent exhibition in 2014. During 2017, the permanent exhibition of The Bauer Collection was opened, as well as the Collection of donations from Croatian and European artists created as a symbol of peace and kinship.

Destruction And Restoration Of Eltz Palace

Philip Karl Eltz, Archbishop of Mainz and German Elector, bought a huge estate in Vukovar in 1736, where the Palace was built. The construction began in 1749. After several expansions, the final appearance was given in 1907 according to the design of Viennese architect Viktor Siedek.

The Eltz palace was the first bombarded building in Vukovar on August 25th 1991 during the Serbian attack on Croatia. The Palace went through terrible devastation during 3 months. After the occupation, on November 18th 1991, the non-Serbian people were exiled and the museum collections were stolen and transferred to Serbia.After 7 years in exile, the Museum continued its work in the destroyed Eltz Palace since 1997. The restoration of the Eltz Palace and the Vukovar Municipal Museum was financed by the Croatian government and the Council of Europe Development Bank as a part of the project “The Restoration and revitalization of the cultural heritage Ilok-Vukovar-Vucedol” led by the Croatia’s Ministry of Culture. As a part of the project, the Baroque centre of Vukovar, the Palace Odescalchi in Ilok and the Town Museum of Ilok, were restored and the Vucedol Culture Museum was built.The Eltz Palace was being restored 2009–2014 after which the new permanent exhibition was set up.

Strenght Of Roots

After the occupation of Vukovar on November 18th 1991, the Vukovar refugees spent up to 10 or more years in exile. Many children lost touch with their roots, being too young to remember, or they were born in exile. Therefore, the most important task of our museum is to introduce the children to their heritage so they can build a foundation for their future.

The ethnographic legacy was hurt the most during the War of Independence, especially the national costumes. The significance of the national costumes is best reflected in the fact that it was one of the few things the locals decided to take with them during the occupation. When refugees came back to devastated Vukovar, there was a powerful awakening of national spirit and searching for the identity, not just with Croatian people, but other minorities as well. Culture and art societies were formed and homeland clubs were restored.


The Role Of Vukovar Municipal Museum

The most important role of GMV is to restore the city’s memory. During the aggression against Croatia in 1991, the city was destroyed, population expelled. The museum was ruined, museum collections alienated and a large part of the museum material disappeared, burnt or was destroyed.

GMV has taken an active role and responsibility to emphasize that his mission is not just a reconstruction of the past, but also of furthering dialogue, to contribute to delineating the cultural identities both of the majority group in the nation and of all the national minorities present in the city.

Knowing that, no matter how great the endured sacrifices were, we must not remain prisoners of the past. Nevertheless, without understanding the past, we cannot build our future. GMV focuses the activities intensively in the life of the city, becoming an essential promoter of peace that, based on diversity, opens the way to a joint future.

The Silletto Prize 2016

“In 1991, during the war in former Yugoslavia, the Eltz castle on the bank of the Danube, that housed the Vukovar Municipal Museum, was almost completely destroyed. Since 1997, after the end of the war, the museum, which had existed as a museum in exile, has been an active force in reconstructing social and cultural life in Vukovar. Barely 17 years after the end of the armed conflict, the Vukovar Museum presents tragedies of the past as things to be avoided in future, not in a spirit of revenge or glorifying military action, but concentrated on people’s suffering and the need for peace-keeping. The Museum also works with the most engaged volunteers. In order to document by objects the period of the 20th century, where the collections are weak for historical reasons, the Museum invites citizens to bring old objects from their own homes, or found after the bombing, thus creating and stimulating an important popular involvement. The Vukovar Municipal Museum is a very convincing Winner of the Silletto Award, which is but a very modest way of celebrating its phenomenal and exemplary achievements.” (European Museum of the Year Award – The Winners 2016)

The European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) was founded in 1977 under the auspices of the Council of Europe, with the aim of recognising excellence in the European museum scene and encouraging innovative processes in a museum world which still took the more traditional view to focus exclusively on collections rather than on their use for the benefit of society.

The Silletto Prize goes to a museum which has in the past two years demonstrated excellence in involving its local community in planning and developing museum and heritage projects or has attracted outstanding support from its work with volunteers with the goal to enhance the public quality of the museum.


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