The History of the Museum
The main goal of the institution is to protect and preserve cultural heritage in accordance with the Museum Law and the Cultural Assets Protection Law.
The island of Hvar is still the oasis of older, less busy times: its time, space, people and rhythm are slower than in the hectic modern world. The heritage, the numerous traces of the lasting presence of man in urban and rural architecture, the dry-stone walls in the fields, the mounds and the unspoiled nature are harmonised, connected, even inseparable. The island is known to be a place to relax and restore lost energy. Its historical towns, traditional villages and precious indigenous settlements are becoming more and more valuable and important, especially when it comes to cultural tourism, so Hvar has in time become fully protected by various laws and regulations. Tourism has become the main economic activity, the basis for the survival of the inhabitants and their main reason to stay on the island. For almost 140 years, Hvar has been going in that direction, relying on its blessings and developing its tourist potential.
The necessity to protect the island of Hvar as a place with extraordinary potential for tourism, its mild climate and cultural and natural treasures was recognised a long time ago, but the problem has been dealt with systematically only since the 1950s. Dr. Niko Duboković Nadalini takes much credit for the present state of affairs, since it was mostly because of his relentless efforts that in 1950 the Municipality of Hvar founded The Historic Archives to facilitate all organised cultural activities on the island. Drawing on the experience he gained working in the Archives of Zadar, Dr. Duboković’s first step was to advocate the collection and preservation of archive material, neglected and significantly damaged, especially in the Second World War and shortly after it.
Dr. Duboković perceived his island as an integer open air museum, realising how irresistible its natural, cultural and historical attraction really is. Aware of the necessity to protect the cultural and natural treasures of the island, the institution Historic Archives widened the scope of its activities and, in addition to managing the archives, it started protecting the heritage, creating a network of commissaries, compiling museum collections, building up a professional library and collecting diverse documentation. The magazine Coverage of the History of the Island of Hvar has made the cultural history of the island available to a large number of interested readers and The Periodic Reports provide the public with detailed information on the work of the institution.
Since its very beginnings the institution has had to face administrative limitations, mostly those relating to the harmonisation of its work with the existent laws, totally incompatible with the working conditions on the island. Therefore, The Historic Archives was re-registered as The Centre for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage of Hvar in 1965. The Centre is involved in three main types of activities: managing the archives, museum work and conservation work.
When the decision to start collections on Hvar was made, the guiding principle was to start them wherever possible. In cooperation with local bodies, eight permanent collections were started, today all integral parts of the Centre:
- The Archaeological Collection and Lapidarium Dr. Grga Novak in Hvar
- The Arsenal Gallery of Modern Art in Hvar
- The Natural History Cabinet Dr. Grgur Bučić in Hvar
- The Ethnographic Collection in Tvrdalj, Stari Grad (given over to the Centre for Culture in Stari Grad)
- The Plančić Gallery in Stari Grad (given over to the Centre for Culture in Stari Grad)
- The Captain’s Room in Stari Grad (given over to the Centre for Culture in Stari Grad)
- The Fisherman’s Museum in Vrboska (given over to the Municipality of Jelsa)
- The Vineyard Collection in Pitve, The National Liberation War Memorial Room in Pitve.
The Historic Theatre of Hvar and Hanibal Lucić’s Reception Room in his summer residence have recently been started as new collections.
Since The Historic Archives were founded at a time when there was no legal delimitation (nor even theoretical or practical delimitation, for that matter) between institutions dealing with the protection of monuments and those managing archives, libraries and museums, the institution could legally be registered for all those activities only by stating the real need to protect the cultural and natural treasures of Hvar. However, despite very tangible results in all cultural areas, especially when it comes to protecting cultural monuments and localities or collecting material and creating documentation databases, the legality of the institution became questionable after a while. Namely, the institution could not harmonise its work with the new legislation on cultural activities and protection of monuments. A compromise was to register the institution in accordance with the law covering most of its activities, i.e. the Museum Law from 1998, which opened up a possibility to found a museum or, more precisely, to convert the Centre into a museum. When the Centre decided to harmonise its activities with the existing legislation at the Commercial Court in Split, it listed museum work as its basic activity. The status of the institution was legally determined on 16th April 2002: The Hvar Heritage Museum was entered in the Court Register of Institutions as the legal successor to The Centre for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage of Hvar. Before it was officially registered, the institution had to be reorganised in order to ensure the continuity of all three basic types of activities (managing the archives, museum work and conservation work): the Centre was to list museum work as its basic activity, since the new Museum Law treated all work related to libraries, archives and publishing as ancillary to museum activities, and state administrations were to establish their branch offices to continue managing the archives and providing conservation services. The Croatian State Archives in Split seconded the proposal and founded a branch office in Hvar, managed by a former archivist of the Centre. The Croatian State Archives, Branch Office Split, pursues its activities in Hanibal Lučić‘s summer residence, where the Museum headquarters are and where the archive holdings of The Hvar Historic Archives are kept. The Conservation Department in Split is in charge of the protection of all protected buildings and facilities involved in administrative procedures or registration proceedings.
The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia rejected the proposal of the Museum to authorise cultural institutions and professionals located on islands and founded and employed by bodies other than the State itself for inspection and supervision.
The Hvar Heritage Museum still cares for the heritage on the territory falling within the scope of its activities (for the island of Hvar as an open air museum) as it was planned at the beginning and awaits new legislation which would give it greater powers.