The origins of the Museum go back to 1872, when the Patriotic Museum was founded, for in its holdings it had a smallish collection of artworks of a cultural history character. More systematic collection of material began after World War II, thanks to the urging of the curator and first manager of the cultural history department, Dr Božo Glavić, to whom goes the credit for moving the collection into the Rector’s Palace and setting up the first in situ display, opened to the public in 1950. During the course of time, the collection turned into first a distinct department of the Dubrovnik Museum, and then into the Cultural History Museum, a component of Dubrovnik Museums.
The holdings of the museum consist of material of a distinctly cultural, historical and artistic value, with about twenty thousand objects created over a time span, from the middle of the 14th century to the beginning of the 20th century. It has been systematised into fifteen collections featuring painting, printmaking, furniture, textiles, ceramics, metals, icons, glass, photographs and photographic materials, miscellanea, documents, postcards, the writer Ivo Vojnović, old weaponry and numismatics.
The permanent display is housed in the Rector’s Palace, and has been in part handled environmentally and most of all presents the artistic and historical heritage of the last period of the Dubrovnik Republic. It also conjures up the authentic space of historical events, representing the state offices, the court room and the jail on the ground floor, the chapel, the reception rooms and the rector’s own apartment with his study, the central space and bedroom on the first floor.
The exhibitions Dubrovnik coins, medals, seals, coats of arms and measures, Armoury, Goldsmithing in Dubrovnik and Inventory of Domus Christi, the state apothecary presented in the mezzanine rooms supplement the themes handled in the permanent display.
The Rector’s Palace
The Rector’s Palace was the centre of government and the official residence of the rector of the Dubrovnik Republic. This Gothic-Renaissance palace was put up in the first half of the 15th century on the remains of the medieval fort called the castellum. It was built to a design of Neapolitan architect Onofrio di Giordano della Cava, as a three storey building with four wings, with corner towers, an inner court and a portico on the front elevation. During the centuries, the palace’s fabric underwent a good deal of serious damage from gunpowder explosions and tectonic events, most of all during the catastrophic earthquake of 1667. Numerous repairs and renovations brought in new styles, but there was always an endeavour to retain the basic characteristics of the Onofrio design. As it is today, the Rector’s Palace is a two-storey building, with portico and atrium, in which the Gothic-Renaissance form is skilfully blended with the Baroque interventions.