5. How did I found the City museum?

Since I was a child I always felt fondness and respect for antiques, even though as a young boy I wrecked a lot of things, mostly out of curiosity about “how it looked from the inside”. My kind grandfather’s scolding and his explanation of antiques, their value as an interpreter of the past, made me a passionate collector and enthusiast about antiques. In a small room on the ground floor of the town of Brlog, under the arcades opposite the chapel, I started forming a museum and a library. I was 11 or 12 years old at the time. And many things disappeared from those rooms and came to my museum!

Emilij Laszowski, a trained lawyer, a dedicated guardian of heritage, a visionary and an active member of the cultural and social life in Zagreb, had considerable experience in his thirties in rescuing, researching and publishing archival records, working in the Croatian Land Archives and a wide range of activities in the field of protection of heritage. In fact, his previous work and success in many areas of life, a rich social life and acquaintances he maintained, made it possible for a child’s play of founding a museum, as well as sorrow for the library and museum that no longer existed in his native town of Brlog, to grow into the formation of Zagreb heritage library and museum.

5.1: Town plans of Brlog dated 1888.

Emilij Laszowski


One of the influential people of that time was a member of the Parliament, later a Croatian ban (viceroy), Dr. Nikola Tomašić. Dr. Tomašić was Emilij’s cousin with whom he spent his childhood. Both of them were raised and tutored by their grandfather, Filip Noble of Šufflay, who bestowed them with a system of life values, and they also went through a crisis related to the dispersal of family estate. At one social gathering at the house of Dr. Tomašić, Emilij presented an idea of establishing a museum and a library to the mayor, Dr. Milan Amruš, who liked his idea. According to Emilij, Tomašić was the one who advocated for the realisation of the aforementioned idea.

5.2: Mayor of Zagreb Milan Amruš

Vlaho Bukovac, 1910


5.3: Nikola Tomašić

Ivan Tišov, 1912


5.4-5: Stone Gate

Photographer unknown, Zagreb, 1905


In the budgets for 1905 and 1906, the City Council allocated a total of 10,000 Kronen for the city museum and library, which was tangible evidence of support for this idea.

During the reconstruction of Zagreb after the 1880 earthquake Laszowski was involved in the protection of monuments and tried with all his might to preserve historical monuments. The news about the plan to demolish the Stone Gate (Kamenita vrata) encouraged Emilij to take specific action.

For two years no one had taken on the task of founding a library and museum, so on behalf of the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon” Society, Laszowski agreed with the head Dr. Milan Amruš that the Society would take over this task and place the library and the museum in the Tower above the Stone Gate.

At a City Council meeting held on 8 May 1907, a Proposal of the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon” Society concerning development of the city museum and public library in the city tower near the Stone Gate by January 1, 1909 was discussed. The proposal was unanimously accepted and on May 11, 1907, the Mayor informed the Society that the Council had gratefully accepted their proposal.

5.6: Offer and proposal of the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon” Society to the councillor Milan Maruš for managing the city library and museum

Written by Emilij Laszowski,  April 12, 1907

Newspaper articles on the foundation of the city library and museum and response of the members of the Society regarding the schedule and timetable for the purpose of founding of the public library are attached to this letter.


5.7: Minutes of the 5th Assembly of the Council of the free royal Capital of Zagreb, in which the proposal of the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon ” Society for development and management of the city museum and public library was accepted

Zagreb, May 8, 1907


5.8: A letter from the Mayor Milan Amruš in which he informed the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon” Society that the City Council had accepted their proposal for development and management of the city museum and public library

Zagreb, May 11, 1907


The amount of 10,000 Kronen, which the City Council allocated for the city museum and library was used for remodelling of rooms. The remodelled rooms on the 1st floor were given to the museum, and the rooms on the 2nd floor were given to the city library. In June 1907, Emilij Laszowski travelled to Vienna where he, among other tasks, prepared for the job of managing the city museum by studying the manner of operation of the Vienna city museum.

Simultaneously with the development of the premises for the city museum and library, the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon” Society worked on collecting objects that cut into the past of our capital for the museum and books for the library, releasing a request in the press for collection of items and then publishing the names of benefactors.

5.10: A letter from Emilij Laszowski to Velimir Deželić sent from Vienna

15 – 17 June 1907


On Sunday, I visited the Vienna City Museum and studied the interior design. That was something marvellous – surely our Zagreb museum will not be as grand, but still it is not out of question.

It is interesting what kind of collections can be found here, I found the collection of dance cards since 1848 especially curious. It is not bad at all. Then there is a collection of society symbols. There is a nice collection of Viennese coins and memorials related to the history of Vienna. Not to mention collections of tombstones, inscriptions, old house numbers /: in metal and stone:/ architectural sculptures removed from houses and churches, galleries of historical images, which is all in a huge mass.

I believe that we will also be able to gather a collection of Croatian paintings for Zagreb Museum. It is just a pitty that so little care has been taken to preserve at least paintings of the destroyed parts of Zagreb. Here in the Vienna Museum, every piece of city institutions and doors is artistically rendered in watercolour! Our Zagreb has lost a great deal of things – like they never existed due to negligence of the city and people without culture! It is to their credit.

5.9: Interior of the Vienna City Museum

Circa 1907

Wien Museum 

5.11: „Braća „Hrvat. Zmaja”

Prosvjeta, 12, 1907


Opening of the city library and museum followed on December 7, 1907 at 6 o’clock in the afternoon. at the renovated premises above the Stone Gate. Mayor Milan Amruš, city representatives, representatives from companies, university students and other citizens were present at the opening. Dr. Velimir Deželić, head of the library, gave a lecture O evoluciji modernih slobodnih knjižnica (On the evolution of modern free libraries),

a lecture that was published a year later owing to the “Brethren of the Croatian Dragon” Society. At the opening, Grand Maister Emilij Laszowski spoke about the history of the origin of the library and museum, and the Mayor Milan Amruš declared the library open. In the newspaper articles about this event, it is not clearly stated whether only the library was opening or whether the museum was opened as well. While the library had a large number of books that could be borrowed, as well as a reading room that people could use, in December 1907 the museum did not have enough collected objects to have an exhibition, either permanent or temporary. However, Laszowski nonetheless stated in his writings that the museum was open to the public, for previously announced visits. Due to too few objects, the museum could not be opened until today, but it has always been shown to individuals, whenever anyone requested a visit to the museum management.

5.12: Gradski muzej i gradska knjižnica u Zagrebu

Prosvjeta, 21, 1907


5.13: Svečano otvorenje nove gradske knjižnice

Hrvatstvo, December 9, 1907


5.14: Gradska knjižnica otvorena

Novosti, December 8, 1907


5.15: Die neue städtische Bibliothek

Agramer Zeitung, December 8, 1907


5.16: Eröfnung der hauptstädtischen Bibliothek

Agramer Tagblatt, December 9, 1907


5.17: Otvorenje gradske knjižnice i muzeja Obzor, December 8, 1907 HDA
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