Foundation of the Town Museum in Sombor
The 19th century is duly called the era of museums, owing to the numerous museums that were founded during that period in the countries of former Yugoslavia and Europe. This trend is consistent with a confirmation of national identity not only in Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, but also in Rome, Prague and Budapest.
After the Austro–Hungarian agreement, by which The Habsburg Monarchy was no longer unitarian but a dual monarchy, in 1860s autonomy was given back to the free and royal towns and districts. Thereupon ensued relatively peaceful period of development of all the territories, including the Free and Royal Town of Sombor. With economical development of administrative centres, ever increasing number of educated people (lawyers, teachers, jurists, doctors, journalists etc.) was settling in the town, which helped forming a specific cultural climate. The same happened in the Bách–Bodrog District, where under the influence of the upper–middle class a variety of journals, magazines, associations and cultural institutions were being founded. Sombor got its theater and library. At the same time emerged the idea of the foundation of the Historical Society. It would have denoted the end of the provincial Sombor and it would also have given weight to the idea of new cultural centres, Sombor being one of them. The first initiatives appeared in 1880 when István Iványi issued the proclamation of the foundation of the district Historical Society which was published not only in all the journals in Bačka but also in the “Centuries” (“Évszázadok”) journal, the organ of the Hungarian Historical Society. The intention was overwhelmingly supported by the intellectuals in Sombor. In August 1882 a committee was formed whose task was to publish the appeal. It was published on 22nd August 1882 in the “Bačka” journal. The inaugural assembly of The Historical Society of the Bách–Bodrog District was held on 11th May 1883. The assembly proclaimed the foundation of the Historical Society with 202 members. It also adopted the draft of rules and chose the board. The draft of rules was written by Dr Margalits Ede and was accepted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 21st March 1884. The main goal of the Society was to collect and arrange historical articles gathered by excavations, donations or purchases for the museum of the Society which was to be founded. In the district journals the Society was asking for donations for future museum which was to have numismatic and medal collection, archeological collection, collection of documents, seals and coat of arms, printed books, manuscripts and monographs, reviews, maps concerning the history of the district, leaflets and other printed material. In 1887 the Historical Society obtained one room in the Prefecture building for the museum. In 1906 the Society expanded its activities and started to collect ethnographic articles. Until the end of the World War II the work of the Historical Society was more or less successful regarding that all the valuable collections and exhibits were saved. In 1936, after the period of inactivity, the Historical Society resumed its work. Since then the Society has been called the “Historical Society of Sombor” and Dr Radivoj Simonović was elected president. Through its work the Historical Society got a lot of sympathisers. It represented the connection with other museums, above all the Museum of Prince Paul and the Military Museum in Belgrade, the Paleontology Museum in Zagreb as well as with numerous renowned professors. Upon the arrival of the Hungarian military forces in Sombor, the Museum was placed under control of the Hungarian Museum Inspectorate.
After the liberation of Sombor on 21st October 1944 the propaganda department of the Military Administration formed the Cultural–Educational board with the task to reopen the museum. Milan Konjović was in control of museum reconstruction, whereas his associates were János Herceg, the writer, and Stevan Jelovac, who took care of the collections. The ceremonial opening of the museum took place in Julij Lederer’s house on 27th October 1945. The Museum is still in the same building. Milan Konjović was elected the director of the Museum. It was opened by Veljko Petrović, the poet. The opening exhibition was the collection of paintings by Yugoslav authors owned by Pavle Beljanski. Owing to staff recruitment, long–lasting collective work and the help of all employees, the Town Museum of Sombor became a cultural institution of museum preservation in the municipalities of Apatin, Odžaci, Kula and Sombor.