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WAR DAMAGES TO MUSEUMS AND MUSEUM HOLDINGS IN CROATIA
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DRNIS
Drniš Town Museum


22320 Drnis
Bozidara Adzije bb
Telephone: 022/ 886 774
Fax: 022/ 886 216
Parent institution: Centar za kulturu / The Cultural Centre
Museum profile: local
Founded: 1970


Category of the museum collection: B
Category of the museum building: C
Number of inventoried museum items: 247
Number of non-inventoried museum items: 120
Microfilmed museum inventories: yes
Apart from the archaeological and ethnographical collection, the museum also has a collection of paintings and sculptures by I. Mestrovic (1883-1962), one of the major Croatian sculptors of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. From March 1994 till the liberation of Drnis, the museum was operating in exile, at the Sibenik City Museum.
From September 1991 to August 5th 1995 the Drnis Regional Museum was on the occupied territory of the Republic of Croatia. Inaccessible to museum workers and officers of the protection of the monuments, it was exposed to war operations and deliberate devastation.

Protection:

* In official letters from the Drnis Museum written during August of 1991, in connection with issuing of official identity cards according to the Hague Convention, no problems with the protection of the holdings were pointed out.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE MUSEUM DURING THE OCCUPATION:
The information received during the war spoke about the material being moved to the Knin fortress, and about the removal or theft of works by Mestrovic and other items.
* At the end of 1993 the Museum Documentation Centre (MDC) began its co-operation with the Art Loss Register, London, on a pilot project of search for the missing works by Mestrovic from the Drnis Museum. The documentation was prepared by the Mestrovic Foundation in Zagreb, and the MDC and the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, which is a part of the Ministry of Culture and Education of the Republic of Croatia did the analysis and the additions. The search is done using the computer network, through the auction houses, in close co-operation with Interpol.
* In May of 1994, Robert Fisk, a correspondent of The Independent, was in Knin where he talked to Milojko Budimir, director of the Institute for Cultural Monuments of the "Krajina" in Knin, about the fate of the artefacts from the Drnis Museum. A part of the holdings of that museum, stored in two basement rooms of the Knin fortress was shown to R. Fisk - Mestrovic's sculptural self-portraits, busts, archive material from the Drnis Museum, a huge oil painting "Kolo" by I. Mestrovic, a bust of Mestrovic's brother Petar, the sculpture "Ludi Mile" ("Crazy Mile"), a bust of Mestrovic's sister and other material. According to M. Budimir, six of Mestrovic's paintings had disappeared during the war, and it is possible that the paintings had ended up in Belgrade or on the illegal market.
* According to the report by the Monitoring Mission of the European Union, dated June 1994, during the war operations in Drnis the museum building was heavily damaged, so that the evacuation of museum holdings to Knin turned out to be a necessity.
* According to the report by the expert advisor to the Council of Europe, Dr Colin Kaiser, during the time of his mission in Croatia in June of 1994, holdings from Drnis (the ethnographic collection and the library, and a part of the Mestrovic collection) were in the Knin Museum, and a part of the holdings in the Mestrovic mausoleum in Otavice.
After the liberation of Drnis and the return of specialist museum workers, the information on the fate of the building and its holdings was confirmed. The museum building was devastated and the holdings damaged and disappeared.

Building damage:


The museum building had twice suffered hits from projectiles, which had devastated it. On the stone facade, on the point of connection between the ground floor and the first floor a 80 cm radius hole was blown. The inner partition walls were knocked out. The roof had suffered severe damage, the roof beams had collapsed. All the windows were broken, the window jambs and wooden shutters broken, the alarm and fire alarm system destroyed. The electrical wiring was destroyed, and all the wall sockets and switches were torn out of the walls and taken. The central exhibition room had, during the whole of the period of occupation served as a basketball hall, and the rest of the museum was used as a public toilet.

Structure damage:


A lesser part of the holdings, found in the building after liberation, was damaged and broken. The archive holdings and books were wet and wrinkled, strewn throughout the building.
A large part of the holdings and a collection of works by Mestrovic were returned from Knin in bad shape.
After checking the holdings and inventory books, it was determined that 214 items were missing (21 of those were the works by Mestrovic), 3 plaster busts by Mestrovic were destroyed, and 25 items had suffered heavy or partial damage.
The ethnographic items, stored in Knin, were damaged due to inadequate storage conditions.
In January of 1999 six paintings by Meštrović were returned to the Museum. They were found in Belgrade and in Drniš. The revision of the other collections was carried out so that the figures for the damage is final.

Damaged collection details►


The Drnis Regional Museum
Ruined sculpture by I. Mestrovic, "Crazy Mile", 11/97
(Photo: Alfred Trojan)


The Drnis Regional Museum
Ruined sculpture by I. Mestrovic, "Kneeling woman", 11/97
(Photo: Alfred Trojan)


The Drnis Regional Museum
The situation after liberation, 8/95
(from MDC's photograph library)

 


The Drnis Regional Museum
Ruined relief by I. Mestrovic, "The birth", 8/95
(from MDC's photograph library)

 

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