Department of Naval History

The interest in the collection of materials on maritime history has existed on the territory of the City of Rijeka even before the establishment of the first museums. This was particularly the case with numerous sailors and ship captains originating from Riijeka who had sailed in the service of the Rijeka shipping companies Ungaro-Croata and Adria, as well as the shipping companies from Senj and Bakar in the late 19th and early 20th century. Returning from their journeys, they would bring to Rijeka exotic items collected in the Far East, South and North America and elsewhere. Before museums were established in Rijeka, these items were generally part of the seamen’s private collections. It was only following the establishment of Museo Civico in the late 19th century and later the Su{ak City Museum in the 1930’s that the interest in donating the exhibits to museums had become substantial.
That there was a wish to preserve the heritage of the Croatian Littoral and the values of the Adriatic Sea was also proved by the fact that a Captains’ Room was part of the display of the Su{ak City Museum, while the Museum itself stressed that the preservation of the maritime heritage and study of the past of the Adriatic Sea was one of its primary aims. The holdings of the Department grew in particular in the late 1940’s and during the 1950’s as numerous renowned Rijeka institutions, among them the Maritime High School in Rijeka, the Rijeka Port Authority, Brodospas Rijeka and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, as well as numerous families, made their donations to the Museum. In 1952, Professor Radmila Matej~i} took over the helm of the Maritime Department.
The Department experienced significant progress after the establishment of the Rijeka People’s Museum in 1953. The realization of the idea of an independent Maritime Museum in Rijeka involved also other Adriatic maritime museums through the Association of Maritime Museum Museologists. Professor Matej~i} was followed by Captain Ivan Moder~in as the head of the Department until 1 February 1957, in turn followed by Anton Poli}. Dr. Radojica F. Barbali}, at that time president of the Division of Maritime Museologists, served as an external consultant establishing the first scientific base for the permanent display of the maritime history in Rijeka. Professor Radmila Matej~i}, Captain Ivan Moder~in and former Museum director, Professor Miroslav Bla`i~evi} in the capacity of a technical consultant participated in the preparation of the display. These activities resulted in the opening of the exhibition in 1962 which would become a nucleus of the future permanent display opened in 1964 on the second floor of what was the already established Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral Rijeka.
The permanent display encompassed the development of the Rijeka region from prehistory to the mid-20th century. Dr. Radojica F. Barbali} was appointed head of the Maritime History Department in which position he served from 1 March 1965 to 1 December 1966. The display also incorporated the collection of stone monuments and casts of ship reliefs. In the early 1980s, the display was supplemented with hydroarchaeological materials originating in the sea of Kvarner and the presentation of ancient sea routes on the Adriatic.
The arrival of Professor Ante Me{trovi} to the Museum marked a new era in the development of the Department, in particular as regards the appreciation of the traditional maritime heritage of the Croatian shores of the Adriatic. On 11 February 1986, Professor Goroslav O{tri} assumed the position of the curator of the Maritime History Department.
In the early 1990’s, as the political situation changed and the Republic of Croatia gained its independence, the activity of the Maritime History Department became increasingly oriented towards emphasizing traditional Croatian values and preserving the maritime heritage of Rijeka and the Croatian Littoral. In the late 1990’s, the activity of the Maritime History Department was marked by several exhibitions which presented the various aspects of seafaring. Finally, it must be mentioned that the participation and effort of all employees of the Museum have, each in their own way, contributed to the development of the Department as it stands today.

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