During a relatively short time, two museums came into being in the Knin area. One of them is the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments developed as the result of research and collection of materials with the aim of creating historical memories, and accordingly cultural and national consciousness (the idea of national revival), led and realised by Fr Lujo Marun.
The Knin Society for Old Croatian Monuments was founded in Knin in 1887, and from 1893 it operated under the name Croatian Society for Old Croatian Monuments. In 1893 the Society established the First Museum of Croatian Monuments (from 1926 the Museum of Old Croatian Monuments) to undertake archaeological research of antique monuments. The exhibits were put away in Sinj in 1942, and after the World War Two one part (Roman monuments) was moved to Zadar and the other part (old Croatian monuments) was taken to Klis and then to Split, in the current Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, one of the specialised national museums in Croatia.
The Knin Museum is the result of hard and continuous endeavours of Knin enthusiasts, lovers of old monuments and the Knin Fortress, professors Ikica, Paić and Živković. Because of the invaluable importance of the greater Knin area in historical, cultural, political and national context, they initiated the reestablishment of the museum in Knin immediately after the World War Two. This was organised by the Committee for the Protection of Cultural and Historical Monuments. The Committee worked on the restoration of the Knin Fortress complex, and the research of the Knin area, following Marun’s, and at the same time the Society’s vision.
From the scanty documentation available in the Knin Museum, it is evident that the Committee had a decisive role in the restoration of the Knin Fortress and the creation of the prerequisites to open a museum, especially during the 1960s. The Municipality Assembly of Knin established the Heritage Museum of the Knin Area on 9th October 1969. The Museum was entered into the register of institutions of the County Business Court in Split. The director was Paško Paić, followed by Petar Živković.
The Museum of the Knin Area was officially opened on 29th November 1969. A valuable memento of that time is the invitation for the official opening with underlined thoughts of Fr Lujo Marun: Our magnificent monuments have to be situated within a magnificent monument such as the Knin Fortress, on this land where every clod of earth reminds of the bygone times of folk life, here in Knin, where the national archaeology begun, rose and grew. This act of open emphasizing of Marun’s thoughts testifies (1) that the Committee leaders have not renounced the fundamentals of the Society for Old Croatian Monuments and consequently (2) the wish to return the collection to the Knin Fortress.
Taking into consideration the historical context and the arrival of 1971 when Paić, the director of the Knin secondary school was relieved of his post, such an open recognition of Marun’s vision deserves respect and admiration. At that time the activity of the Museum and Committee were intertwined since the Committee continued to restore the fortress, signing contracts as a legal entity up to 1974. Namely, in the spirit of new political events, the Committee for the Protection of Cultural and Historical Monuments was dissolved and its name was changed into Museum Council. The Council held its first meeting on 9th August 1974.
It consisted of seven members only two of which were professionals. The Council was chaired by a national war hero, which indicates the conditions in which Paić and Živković worked. However, Živković “survived” the political turmoil of the 1970s. He worked till 1991 when he took his disability pension. During this period he undertook significant works on the restoration of the Fortress and development of the Museum. The greater part of the Knin Fortress (where the Museum was situated) was restored thus making it possible to perform its mission of collecting, protecting and researching the civilisation, cultural and natural heritage, professional and scientific processing of this heritage and systematisation into collections.
Permanent protection of museum materials, documentation, locations and findings was performed, as well as their direct and indirect presentation to the public through permanent and occasional exhibitions, but also through publication of data and knowledge about museum collection and documentation through professional, scientific and other communication channels. The collection consisted of items and other objects from the fields of archaeology, ethnology, cultural history, visual arts and science.
In addition to the historical area of the Fortress the Museum is entrusted with the management of the area outside the walls, Podgrađe, and the archaeological area of the Spas mountain.
After the Homeland War, the Zadar-Knin County, through the Commission for the Protection and Conservation of Cultural Heritage on Liberated Areas, set up the work in the Museum which in formal and legal terms was under administration of the National Museum Zadar. The appointed director, Branka Medved, stayed day and night in the Museum building on the Fortress and thanks to this the Museum collection was saved in the greatest part. Anyhow, most of the collection was taken before and during the war. The basic preconditions for operation were achieved with the employment of two professional staff members, caretaker and cleaner and later on an accountant. Actions were taken to restore the buildings and collections, as well as the Fortress itself, with the financial help of the Ministry of Culture. Understandably, these actions had the full support of the Croatian government commissioner for Knin, especially as regards the advocacy of the idea and the mission of the Museum according to its founders Paić and Živković.
The town of Knin took over the foundation rights from the Zadar-Knin County in 1997. The Museum then changed its name to Knin Museum and kept it to this very day. Draženko Samardžić was appointed director in 1997 and he filled that post till 2008 when Zvonimir Jelić was appointed director. The legal status was also resolved and the Museum was listed in the registry at the Commercial Court in Split on 16th December 1998.
The Knin Museum is an established institution, that has been working continuously for over 45 years (it will celebrate its 50th anniversary on 9th October 2019), and disregarding the (in)activity during the Homeland War it has been working fruitfully and progressively.