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WAR DAMAGES TO MUSEUMS AND MUSEUM HOLDINGS IN CROATIA
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ILOK
Ilok Town Museum

32236 Ilok
Setaliste I. L. Ribara bb
Telephone: 032/741 367
Parent institution: The Cultural Centre in Ilok
Museum profile: local history
Founded: 1952


Category of the museum collection: B
Category of the museum building: B
Number of inventoried museum items: 6,280
Number of non-inventoried museum items: 10,325
Microfilmed museum inventories: no
In Roman times Ilok was a fortress named Cuccium on the Dunav limes (frontier). In the Middle Ages it became the feudal seat of the princes of Ilok who had built a fortress there in the 15th century. It is today the most beautiful and best-preserved example of defensive fortifications in northern Croatia.
A Turkish bath and a mausoleum - the turbe, have been preserved from the time of Turkish rule (1526-1688). After the Turks had departed, Ilok passed to the hands of the Italian feudal noblemen of the Odescalchi family, who had built a Baroque castle and held it up until the end of the Second World War.
The museum was founded in 1952, and from 1969 it is housed in the Odescalchi castle. Through its holdings it presents the rich cultural history of Ilok and the Srijem region, from the pre-historic and Roman artefacts, the display of the fortified citadel in the Middle Ages and the period of the princes of Ilok, through the period of Turkish occupation all the way to displays presenting recent history. Particularly outstanding is the ethnographic collection which shows the spiritual and material culture of the people and ethnic groups in the Srijem region. The Gallery of Fine Art holds works by foreign masters of the Renaissance and later periods (from the former Odescalchi castle), as well as works by contemporary artists. The museum also has a numismatic collection, a collection of works made by the colony of visual arts in Ilok, a rich archive dealing with the history of Ilok, and a valuable library.
From October 1991 to October 1997, the museum was on the occupied territory, and museum workers and the Agency for the Protection of Monuments had no access to it.

Protection:

According to the instructions issued by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, the protection of the museum holdings began in the middle of 1991. The gallery holdings were transferred from the second to the first floor, which has thicker walls, and stored in the inner rooms.
By the end of August 1991, the enemy had surrounded Ilok, and the evacuation of the most valuable museum holdings was considered. The Ilok Municipal Museum had no equipment for evacuation and dislocation of museum holdings. In spite of that, ten metal boxes for the transfer of museum holdings were acquired. A driver from VUPIK brought the boxes my means of a roundabout route through Nijemci, Djeletovci and Tovarnik.
The most valuable items, which were to be brought out of Ilok, were selected and lists were made for each individual box. The town authorities had in the beginning of October 1991 arranged with the representatives of the JNA that the townspeople be allowed to leave the town of Ilok and other surrounded villages in the area. In negotiations between the members of Monitoring Mission of the EU and representatives of Ilok, without the presence of the JNA, it was arranged that the museum inventory books and the ten metal crates with the most valuable items be evacuated in a EU vehicle. It was arranged that the museum rooms be sealed in the presence of a commission, and that a protocol be drawn up. None of the arrangements were carried out, because the representatives of the EU left the town earlier than expected. The museum together with its holdings was locked, and the inventory books were dislocated.
Together with the rest of the townspeople, the professional museum worker was displaced from Ilok on October 17, 1991.
INFORMATION ON THE ILOK MUNICIPAL MUSEUM DURING THE OCCUPATION
According to the information obtained between 1992 and 1994 from the Serb local newspaper "Iločka reč", the museum was open to public, with new additions of captions in the Cyrillic script. Exhibitions were put up and invitations to the newly settled population were being published to visit "the richest museum in these parts". The same newspaper had published information that the private collections of fine art and a part of the library holdings were robbed or destroyed.
* According to the report by the expert advisor to the Council of Europe, Dr Colin Kaiser, who had visited Ilok together with the representatives of the EU during March of 1994, the museum was open to public, the permanent exhibition was not changed and there was a lady curator of Slovak nationality.
* A part of the of the ethnographic collection and the recent history collection (the Srijem front) on permanent exhibition is endangered, because of a leaky water tank belonging to the town's waterworks, which is located in the attic of the castle's western wing. The museum had few visitors, most of them being the foreign delegations. The locals did not visit the museum.
* Croatian delegations, which had during 1996 visited Ilok to discuss peaceful reintegration, were not been allowed to view the museum, although the negotiations were being held on the ground floor of the castle.
After the return to Ilok in September of 1997, the information on the state of the building and the holdings was confirmed. The Odescalchi castle was found to be in disrepair, the museum holdings unattended and a part of them had been stolen.

Building damage:


Experts from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia
and the Administration for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Osijek have examined the building and determined a disturbance of static stability visible from the foundation layer to the roof. The disturbance, namely the settling of the load-bearing construction, was due to erosion by water, which was overflowing from the water cistern of the town's waterworks in the attic.
As the building had not been taken care of in years, and the damage had not been repaired, the settling had caused the roof to tilt, the attic windows had cracks next to them, enlarged by rotten plumbing surrounding the windows. The batten gauges were damaged by water, all the rooms had cracked walls and ceilings, especially on the second floor of the western wing and the corridor leading to the north. All the museum rooms are in disrepair and damp because damage to the walls and ceilings had not been repaired; buckets had been placed to collect water in places where it had been coming in.

Structure damage:


Between the 9th and 12th of May 1997, a burglary was committed in the Ilok Municipal Museum. Twenty-three paintings were stolen from the gallery exhibition - works of art by old masters. All the paintings were taken out of their frames and cut out of wedged stretchers. The perpetrators had tried to erase the marks of their crime by spraying foam from fire extinguishers. The theft was committed over the weekend, and was discovered on Monday, May 12th 1997. The assessment and investigation was carried out by members of the Transitional Police Force with representatives of the Police of the Republic of Croatia.
Members of the police had, with the assistance of the Administration for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage from Zagreb, the MDC and director of the museum in exile, Mile Batorovic, collected photographs and documentation on the stolen works of art. Details of the theft were made public, and ICOM, UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia were notified. The theft was reported to Interpol.
The rest of the museum items were found to be neglected, for the most part damaged because of damp and lack of ventilation, especially in the case of the items kept in storage. 
In March 1998 a commission carried out the revision of the entire museum holdings, thus determining the final figures for the war damage to the holdings.

Damaged collection details►

The Ilok Municipal Museum
The frames left behind after the theft of pictures, 5/97
(Photo: Mato Batorovic)

The Ilok Municipal Museum
Stolen painting, "Two knights", the work of unknown author from 18th century
(from MDC's photograph library)

The Ilok Municipal Museum
Ruined walls of the Odescalchi castle
(Photo: Mato Batorovic)

 

The Ilok Municipal Museum
Ruined paintings prepared for restoring,
(Photo: Zvonimir Tanocki)

The Ilok Municipal Museum
Ruined paintings prepared for restoring,
(Photo: Zvonimir Tanocki)

The Ilok Municipal museum,
the state of the museum, 1997
(Photo: Mato Batorovic)

copyright © MDC 1997.-2018.