1. Filip Nikolić (1830-1867)
Filip Nikolić, professor of the Trade School, was the first custodian of the National Library and Museum, appointed in 1853, as soon as the position of the librarian and custodian was established by the Decree of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević. In two and a half years, during which he led both institutions, Nikolić created a registry of all the artifacts, regulations of two institutions and required a special budget and a bigger space for the Museum and the Library.
2. Đuro Daničić (1825-1882)
Đuro Daničić, the renown philologist, Professor at the Higher School and one of the most prominent people to study the Serbian and Croatian language, was the second custodian of the National Museum. Following the work of Nikolić, Daničić has urged the authorized Ministry to build a special building for the Museum and the Library, “like other countries in the world do”. However, due to high costs of such project, the State Council declined the proposal with a recommendation to rent a big house for the needs of accommodation of these institutions but, unfortunately, even this did not happen.
3. Milivoj Prajzinović
State cadet Milivoj Prajzović spent four months at the position of the Museum’s custodian. Soon after this, in 1860, he became employed at the Ministry of Justice.
4. Kosta Crnograc
In February 1860, the State cadet Kosta Crnogorac becomes the Museum custodian and in May 1861 he was already transferred to Šabac where he was appointed professor of a High School. He was temporarily replaced by the Head of the Educational Administration, Ljubomir Nenadović and on May 10, 1861 by a degree of Prince Mihajlo Obrenović Janko Safarik was appointed custodian.
5. Janko Šafarik (1814-1876)
Janko Šafarik was the professor at Higher School, member of the Serbian Literaly Society, archeologist and numismatist. Šafarik has initiated the first archeological excavations on Rudnik, Kosmaj and Jelica. Furthermore, during Šafarik’s time, the Museum collections were systematized. In 1848, together with Jovan Sterija Popović and Grubarevi, he has composed The list of objects belonging to the Serbian Museum (Spisak stvari Muzeumu Srbskom prinadležci) which represents the first museum inventory in Serbia.
On his request, the Museum was moved from the building of Artillery barracks (Topčijska kasarna) to the building of the Educational Administration. In June 1862, with the beginning of the armed conflict between Serbs and Turks, Šafarik has urgently moved the museum collection to a safe location, and that act represents the first example of protection of museum collections in war circumstances. After moving the Museum into the building of Major Miša Atanasijević, Šafarik created Museum’s first display that was occasionally opened to public and above all to high school and boarding school students.
6. Stojan Novaković (1842-1915)
Diplomat, philologist, historian of literature, professor at Belgrade Higher School, Minister of Education, President of the Serbian Royal Academy. As the Minister of Education in the Government of Jovan Ristić, he implemented a reform of high school education that is in some parts present even today. He began his diplomatic career with a mission in Istanbul and continued in Paris and Petrograd. As Museum Custodian, Novaković secured special budget for the Museum emphasizing that its expenditures are nor high. He initiated the creation of the Law on National Library and Museum.
7. Jovan Bošković (1834-1892)
Philologist, Secretary of the Serbian Education Society, Minister of Education, Professor at the Higher School in Belgrade, academic, notable person in the country’s cultural life and one of the main initiators of founding of the National Theatre in Belgrade. After being appointed Museum Custodian, he has again raised the issues of space, employees and funding. In 1880 he has required money for “acquisition and excavation of antiquities” and “for travel in the interest of the Museum” from the state budget.
8. Nićifor Dučić (1832-1900)
Historian, Commander of the Volunteer Guard, a monk and Archimandrite of the Serbian Orthodox Church, member of the Serbian Royal Academy and President of the Serbian Education Society. Nićifor Dučić is the last Custodian of the National Library and Museum. In 1881, the Minister of Education, Stojan Novaković, submitted a proposal of the Law on National Library and Museum, explaining that the changes in scope of work and increase of institutions’ needs and public demands require the secured development of both institutions. According to the Act 2 of this law “The direct administration and management of the National Library and Museum, belongs for the Library to a Librarian and for the Museum to a Professor of Archeology at the Higher School who is at the same time the Custodian of the National Museum”.
9. Mihailo Valtrović (1839-1915)
Valtrović was the first professor of archeology at the Higher School, founder of Serbian archeology and museology, member of the Serbian Royal Academy, the first Director of the National Museum since its separation from the National Library. He is the founder of the Serbian Archeological Society in 1883 and the founder and editor (from 1884 till 1907) of the first expert magazine Antiquary (Starinar). As the Custodian of the National Museum, Valtrović sets the foundations of the Museum as a modern institution of cultural heritage protection. With the explanation “to stand in the way […] of willful destroying of antiquities and their export outside of the country”, Valtrović submitted a Proposal of a Law on historic and art antiquities in Serbia. In 1882 he organized the first public exhibition of sculptures of Petar Ubavkić and later that year after receiving news on the death of painter Katarina Ivanović, he exhibits 23 of her paintings in the Museum. Along with the “expert list” of all artifacts, Valtrović didn’t neglect the preparation of catalogues for the museum audience. In the beginning of 1900 the Museum received official approval for realization of exhibitions and publishing a catalogue and the first catalogue was Description of objects from Legacy of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić. At the beginning of 1904, the works on the permanent display that lasted for several years were completed, and the Museum was included in the program of celebration of 100 anniversary of the First Serbian Uprising.
10. Miloje Vasić (1869-1956)
Archeologist, professor at the Higher School and Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, member of the Serbian Royal Academy. As the Custodian of the National Museum, he continued with scientific research set by Valtrović, and developed both the exhibition and the protection activity of the Museum. Vasić’s explorations of Vinča, commenced in 1908, positioned Serbia on the archeological map of Europe, thus presenting an exceptional segment of our cultural heritage to the world. Vasić dedicated great attention to the public work of the Museum with the initiative that the Museum continuously opens its doors for the public on certain days. In February 1907 the exhibition Yugoslavian Art Colonies was realized, during which, for the first time, Museum has recorded the number of visitors (4,298). During Vasić’s time, for the first time in the history of the Museum an expert intervention on protection of cultural heritage was done: a special protective frame was built for the Iconostasis from Monastery Blagoveštenje which was brought to the Museum for the display.
11. Vladimir Petković (1874-1956)
Art Historian and Archeologist, lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Head of the Archeological Institute, member of the Serbian Royal Academy and the person who set the foundation of the scientific study of cultural monuments within Serbian historiography and art history. Petković became the Director of the National Museum in difficult circumstances, after its devastation in the World War I, when the Museum represented, as he himself remarked, “just a shadow of the former Museum”. After numerous difficulties, the Museum moved into the house of Raša Milošević in 1922 and opened its doors for the public and in the following year. Thanks to commitment of Petković and other Museum’s experts, the Museum was recovering: it became more modern, the first workshop for conservation and restoration was established and all areas of museum operation have developed, still with the major focus on the research.
12. Milan Kašanin (1895-1981)
Art Historian, art critic, writer, historian of literature and cultural worker, who adopted the modern European views by studying at Sorbone. He received his PhD in 1926 and already next year he became the Custodian of the newly established Museum of Contemporary Art. After the merge of the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Historic and Art Museum he became the director of the newly-formed Museum of Prince Pavle. Thanks to Kašanin, until 1939 the Museum has hosted six international exhibitions, among which we single out Italian Portrait through Centuries (1938) and French Painting of the 19th Century (1939). Furthermore he has initiated the magazine Art Review (Umetnički pregled) and developed a successful publishing activity, following the exhibitions with exceptional illustrated catalogues. Through his cooperating with Prince Paul Karađorđević, Kašanin has enlarged the art collections of the Museum and created a permanent display based on contemporary concepts which reflected the diversity and richness of the Museum collection. During the World War II, Kašanin held the Museum opened for the public and took care that museum collections aren’t ruined during this conflict. From 1951 until his retirement, Kašanin has worked as the Director of Gallery of Frescoes.
13. Veljko Petrović (1884-1967)
Author, Art Historian, member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, president of the Matica Srpska and the Serbian Literary Cooperative. In the period between the Wars, he was a clerk and an inspector at the Department of Art at the Ministry of Education. At the end of 1944, he became the Director of the Art Museum. The very next year, for the 100th anniversary of the Museum, he has organized the exhibition Serbian Painting of the 18th and 19th century. In the years to come, the Museum underwent great changes – it was given its former name, the National Museum, and was given the building of the Investment Bank at the Square of the Republic where in 1952 the Museum opened for the public. During almost 18 years Veljko Petrović was the Director, the Museum organized numerous exhibitions, re-established international cooperation, developed education activities, continued archeological research, founded Collection of Papers of the National Museum, and profiled itself as an art and historic museum.
14. Lazar Trifunović (1929-1983)
Historian of art, art critic, professor, founder of the Department for Modern Art at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade where he taught History of Modernism till the end of his life. Apart from the extraordinary contribution in the field of art history, Lazar Trifunović is especially important for the development of museology in Serbia, both as the Director of the National Museum in Belgrade and Gallery of Contemporary Art in Niš. In the work of the National Museum he introduced innovations that often came across strong resistance. Trifunović aspired to create a dynamic, open museum through advocating for innovation in realization of general museum operations and their synchronization with the contemporary museum standards as well as for activities that contribute to social affirmation of the Museum and its scientific and educational mission. He ensured funds for the adaptation of the building thanks to which the space of the Investment Bank was adapted to the needs of a modern museum. Trifunović enabled further development of the Museum and a closer relationship between the institution and visitors.
15. Miodrag Kolarić (1912-2001)
Art Historian and a curator for many years, worked at the National Museum since 1951. Miodrag Kolarić published around 250 studies, articles, essays and texts thus demonstrating a wide scope of interests and knowledge. As the Director, since 1969, he continued the realization of programs and activities of his predecessor. In November of 1969, the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Museum took place under the patronage of the President of Yugoslavia. On that occasion the antic silver goblet, stolen and sold during the World War I, was returned to the Museum by the Berlin Museum.
16. Vladimir Kondić (1931-1994)
Archeologist, director of the Archeological Institute in Belgrade, leader of important research projects, author of numerous papers, especially in the field of Roman archeology and numismatics. As the Director of the National Museum he intensified international cooperation and guest exhibitions from around the world. Seeing the importance of systematic archeological research for the development of collections, he has emphasizes the archeological activity of the National Museum. Thanks to Vladimir Kondić, the National Museum was the carrier of big activities related to the protection and scientific research of the Project Đerdap 2. The results of the research were presented within the Archeological Museum of Đerdap whose founding was the result of the special dedication of Vladimir Kondić.
17. Jefta Jevtović (1931-2011)
Jevtović has graduated Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. Since 1956 he was the Manager of the Cultural Institution West Vračar and he remained in that position till 1965. He was elected Director of the Museum of Applied Arts in Belgrade in 1971 and in 1977 he assumed the position of the Secretary of City Conference of Socialist Union of Working People of Belgrade. From October 1980 till his retirement in 1996, Jeftovic was the Director of the National Museum in Belgrade. During this period the Museum continued with the realization of numerous archeological excavations, aspired to improve the media promotion and improve the overall functionality of the institution. Being the leader of two national museums, during 23 years, he contributed to their closer program profiling and modernization, closer connection to the public and social environment.
18. Bojana Borić-Brešković (1947-)
In 1996, for the first time in its history, the National Museum had a female director. Classical philologist Bojana Borić-Brešković first worked as the Head of Department of Numisatics and Epigraphics at the Belgrade City Museum, to start working at the National Museum in 1977 as a currator of the Collection of Antic Numismatics and Epigraphic Monuments. During the years in which Bojana Borić-Brešković was the director, the conditions in the Museum were hard due to the economic and political crisis in Serbia. Firstly, due to numerous risks, a part of the permanent display, the Collection of Foreign Art, was withdrawn and in 1999 due to the NATO bombing of Serbia, the entire permanent display was withdrawn. However, the Museum had a dynamic exhibition activity. Furthermore, recognizable events of the Museum were founded, such as the International Festival of Archeological Film, important projects were initiated, such as Protection of Lepenski Vir Complex or Summer School of Conservation Diana. Initiatives for reconstruction of the central museum building have drawn attention to the difficult condition of the National Museum.
19. Nikola Tasić (1932-)
Archeologist, director of the Balkan Institute for many years, member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, begun his career in the Heritage Museum of Zemun and Belgrade City Museum. He systematically researched numerous of archeological sites, among which are Vinča-Belo Brdo, Gomolav, Gradina on Bosut and Belegiš. He has published more than 300 papers in local and international publications: articles, studies, monographies, and reports. He was the Director of the National Museum from late 2001 until April 2003 where he, in cooperation with the Balkan Institute, successfully realized few excellent exhibition projects. Pointing to the alarming state of the National Museum, Tasić started the initiative of a thorough reconstruction of the Museum’s central building. Next year the initiative was accepted, initial funds were collected and the support to the project of National Museum reconstruction was given by the Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić.
20. Tatjana Cvjetićanin (1963)
2003 – 2012
21. Bojana Borić-Brešković (1947-)
2012 – present