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Museums, galleries and libraries

Museums and galleries

The tradition of collecting and preserving cultural heritage among the Croats is very old; it began with the development of ecclesiastical treasuries and private collections, while the first public museum collection was established in 1750 in Split.

In the 19th century, institutions were founded to collect and exhibit works of art and items of various types of heritage – the so-called national museums in Zadar (1832), Zagreb (1846), Dubrovnik (1872) and Osijek (1877). From their collections, specialist departments were formed which operate today as separate institutions in their own right, such as the Croatian Natural History Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Croatian History Museum in Zagreb. Specialist museums and galleries were founded from the late 19th century onwards, mostly in Zagreb: the Museum of Arts and Crafts (1880), the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters (1884), the Modern Gallery (1905; renamed the National Museum of Modern Art in 2021) and the Zagreb City Museum (1907). The Museum of Croatian Antiquity was founded in Knin in 1893; after its relocation to Split in 1948, it was organised as the central Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. In 1925, the year in which one thousand years of the Kingdom of Croatia was celebrated, museums were founded in Požega, Varaždin and Šibenik. The tradition of art galleries was continued by new institutions in Split (1931), Dubrovnik (1945), Vukovar (1948), Rijeka (1949) and Osijek (1954).

Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb
Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb
Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art, Rijeka
Art Gallery, Split
The Church of the Holy Redeemer in Otavice near Drniš, the tomb of sculptor Ivan Meštrović and his family.
Museum of Antique Glass, Zadar

After the Second World War, many town museums were established, some of which also preserve regional heritage, for examples those in Rijeka, Gospić, Poreč, Čakovec and Kutina. Among memorial museums, the most prominent are the Ivan Meštrović Museums (the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, the Meštrović Gallery and the Meštrovićeve Crikvine – Kaštilac complex in Split and the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Otavice), which were established using works donated by the artist. The most important ecclesiastical collections are the Permanent Exhibition of Church Art (1976) in Zadar, the cathedral treasuries in Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, and the collections of individual monastic orders. In 1954, the Gallery of Contemporary Art opened in Zagreb; today it is the Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a new, more appropriate building since 2009. Newer institutions include the Narona Archaeological Museum (2007) in Vid, near Metković, the Museum of Antique Glass (2009) in Zadar, the Krapina Neanderthal Museum (2010) in Krapina, on the site of the former Museum of Evolution, the innovative Museum of Broken Relationships (2011) in Zagreb and the Vučedol Culture Museum in Vukovar (2015). Zagreb also boasts the Art Pavilion (1898) and the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery (1982), which do not have their own permanent collections, but host exhibitions of world and national heritage.

The work of museums and galleries is coordinated by the Museum Documentation Centre, founded in 1955.

There are museums, galleries, gallery departments and collections in all major cities in Croatia today. In addition to the aforementioned, the most prominent are the Ethnographic Museum, the Mimara Museum, the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts Glyptotheque, the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art and the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb; the Art Gallery, the Ethnographic Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Croatian Maritime Museum and the Split City Museum in Split; the Art Gallery, the Homeland War Museum and the Dubrovnik Museums (Cultural and History, Maritime, Ethnographic and Archaeological) in Dubrovnik; the National Museum and the Archaeological Museum in Zadar; the Šibenik City Museum in Šibenik; the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral, the Natural History Museum and the Rijeka City Museum in Rijeka; the Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria and the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula; and the Ethnographic Museum of Istria in Pazin.

Among the major museums in northern Croatia are also the Antun Augustinčić Gallery in Klanjec, the 'Old Village' Museum in Kumrovec (part of the Croatian Zagorje Region Museums), the Međimurje Region Museum in Čakovec and the Town Museum in Varaždin, and in eastern Croatia, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of the Slavonia Region in Osijek, and the City Museum in Vukovar.

Libraries

The first libraries in Croatia were founded by the Benedictines, and later by other religious orders. Medieval bishops had libraries, as evidenced by information from the late 14th century on the inventory of books in the library of the Diocese of Zagreb, which even today forms part of the well-known Metropolitan Library. When Jesuit colleges were founded, libraries were also established in their schools, while during the Renaissance, private libraries were also well known. The establishment of the Jesuit College library in Zagreb (1607) marked the foundation of the National and University Library (NSK), which today provides library and information services as the national library of the Republic of Croatia and the central library of Zagreb University; it also conducts scientific research and development activities in order to improve Croatian librarianship and the development of the library system.

Klovićevi dvori Gallery, housed in a former Jesuit monastery in the old part of Zagreb. It displays representative exhibitions of national heritage and hosts guest exhibitions from world famous museums and galleries.
National and University Library in Zagreb hosted ministerial conferences during Croatia's presidency over the EU, including two EU summits.
Entrance hall of the National and University Library in Zagreb
Reading-room in the Croatian State Archives, Zagreb (the former National and University Library).
Library of the Friars Minor, Dubrovnik
Library of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb safeguards valuable manuscripts, incunabula and rare items, and cooperates with academies and scholarly institutions in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the number of public, school, expert and other libraries grew rapidly. According to data collected by the NSK, there were 206 individual public libraries, outposts and units, 13 mobile library services, and holdings of approximately 11.5 million volumes. The largest are the city libraries in Zagreb, Split, Osijek, Rijeka, Zadar and Karlovac. Among the libraries operating within the public universities, the principal ones are the university libraries in Dubrovnik, Koprivnica, Osijek, Pula, Rijeka, Split and Zadar. There are also libraries at two private universities and several libraries at private higher education institutions that are outside the system of university libraries. The school library network consists of 1,284 libraries in primary and secondary schools with holdings of 7.2 million volumes. In Croatia, there are also scholarly libraries in Dubrovnik and Zadar as well as specialised libraries of which the most significant is the Library of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb.