The Nikola Tesla Museum is an institution of special character. Apart from having museological collections, representing a backbone of its activity, it also keeps Tesla’s personal archive and architecture. Apart from museological activities, the mission of this museum is also reflected in the exhibition and publishing activities.
Personal items and documentation of Nikola Tesla were brought to Belgrade in 1951, thanks to Tesla’s heir Sava Kosanović. After one year, at the initiative of the Council for Science and Culture, the Government of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia on December 5, 1952 reached the decision on the establishment of Nikola Tesla Museum. Chosen as the first director was the professor of the Faculty of Philosophy Veljko Korać. One year later, on April 15, 1953, the first Advisory Council of the Museum was selected with the following members: Sava Kosanović, Veljko Vlahović (Director of the Borba newspaper), Božidar Kraut, Aleksandar Damjanović, Ilija Obradović, Josip Lončar and Milan Vidmar, professor at Ljubljana University.
Since its foundation, the tasks of the Museum were, inter alia, to keep the scientific and personal legacy of Nikola Tesla, to further collect and keep the documentation and personal items related to the life and work of Nikola Tesla, to maintain permanent exhibition of materials from its collections and to organise and facilitate the studying of that material, as well as to publish the works and writings of Nikola Tesla and, as the owner of author rights, authorise publications by others.
Prof. Veljko Korać performed the function of Museum Director for full three decades, between 1952 and 1982. He established and realised the goals and task of this first memorial-technical museum in Yugoslavia.
After the foundation of the Museum and the arranging of the archive materials, the preparations for the arrangement of permanent exhibition started. The project of rearranging the ground floor of the Genčić villa in 1955 was prepared by the architect Slobodan M. Vasiljević Macuoka, student of Dragiša Brašovan. A team of professors of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, led by the director of the newly founded museum, took part in the formation of the permanent exhibition. The making of the exhibits to be exposed was assigned to the SAN Institute for the examination of electric cables, Nikola Tesla.
The first part of the permanent exhibition is situated in three premises and it chronologically follows the biography of Nikola Tesla. Exposed in the first room was the factual material testifying about Tesla’s European period, while documents related to his stay in the United States of America were exposed in the other premise. The third premise is of a memorial character and is a place where Tesla’s urn is placed today. Presented in the second part of the exhibition was the development of science in the areas of electricity and magnetism until Tesla’s discoveries.
Such a concept had not been changed until July 2016 when certain corrections were made, as well as the modernisation of exhibition with the elements of modern technology.
The Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade was opened for public on October 20, 1955 and was the first technical museum in Yugoslavia. Presented on this occasion was the permanent exhibition at which the visitors could see the models made accurately according to Tesla’s drawings. Many celebrities from the fields of culture and science attended the opening procedure, including Moša Pijade, Petar Stambolić, Rodoljub Čolaković, Milentije Popović, Mijalko Todorović, Sava Kosanović, Đuro Salaj and others.
Today, the Museum is a unique institution of science and culture in Serbia and in the world. It is the only museum that keeps original and personal legacy of Nikola Tesla. It possesses extremely valuable collections:
- over 160,000 original documents;
- over 2,000 books and newspapers;
- over 1,200 historical-technical exhibits;
- over 1,500 photos and glass photo-boards, original technical objects, instruments and appliances;
- over 1,000 plans and drawings.
The Museum plays a special role in organising, encouraging and promoting explorations in the field of science in order to observe more clearly Tesla’s contribution to the development of sciences and technology in late 19th and early 20th century.
By: Ivana Ćirić, curator