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The Natural History Museum in Belgrade is one of the oldest museological and oldest specialized scientific institutions in Serbia. This is the only museum of this type in Serbia. With almost 1.5 million specimens this is one of the largest natural history museums in Southeastern Europe. This museum has rich tradition and experiences with a very well developed network of international connections.

History of the Museum

The Natural History Museum in Belgrade was founded in 1895 as Jestastvenički muzej Srpske zemlje (Natural Science Museum of Serbian Land). Even before the Museum was officially founded, in the Principality of Serbia in the first half of 19th century, there were many nature collections, which were stored at the Naturalist Cabinet of Great School (Lyceum).

Josif Pančić was a very important scholar of natural sciences, not only on local level but in global scope as well. He was the first President of Serbian Royal Academy and a professor at Great School. His scientific work was important for almost all biological disciplines, while his contribution to botany is so great it has no counterpart. Although his work was of pioneer character, at the same time this was the golden age of botany in Serbia. He performed detailed studies of flora with the then borders of Serbia, discovering and describing about 50 species new to science and valid even today (Picea omorica, Ramonda serbica, Eryngium serbicum, Centaurea derventana etc.). He is considered a founder of Natural History Museum, as with his group of associates and students he had collected and studied the specimens in nature.

Pančić had numerous students and scholar descendants: mineralogists, geologists, botanists and zoologists, who worked on studying nature in Serbia and contributed to enrichment of future collections of the Museum. Collections prepared by these scientists are still stored at the Museum. Besides the scientific value they also have a great historical value.

The first exhibition at the Museum was open in 1904 in Belgrade in presence of King Peter I and his officials, while the first guest exhibition of natural history specimens abroad was in the same year at the World Exhibition in Paris.

The first manager of the Museum was Academy Member Petar Pavlović, geologist and lecturer at Great School. He had spent 30 years at the position of manager, completely dedicated to his work, so the Museum represents the work of his lifetime.

During the First and Second World War, many collections of the Museum were damaged or destroyed, and unique natural history objects, archives and parts of library were lost forever. After the Second World War the Museum had tried to remove the consequences of the war.

Museum today

The Museum presently has 117 collections with over 1.5 million specimens. Importance of fund of natural history collections is immense, as it documents not only the nature of Serbia but also of neighboring Balkan countries and shows their development from the ancient times to today. The Museum stores specimens of plants and animals that cannot be found in Serbia any more, as due to human influence they either became extinct or migrated to other areas. The Museum has an outstanding global reputation as the collections include several hundred holotypes and unique specimens of minerals, rocks, botanical and zoological objects.

On 1972, the Museum of Forestry and Hunting, with all the collections of hunting trophies and hunting gear, was added to the Natural History Museum.

The Museum has four sectors: Geological Sector (mineralogy, petrology and paleontology), Biological Sector (botany, zoology and mycology), Sector for Education and Public Relations and Sector of Common Services.

The Natural History Museum is one of the rare museums in our country to include a Science-Research Unit.

One of the important collections at the Museum is the General Herbarium of Balkan Peninsula, representing a database of flora from the region of former Yugoslavia, also including some specimens from Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. It is estimated to include about half a million specimens of higher plants.

Some of the other important collections within the Museum include: collection of minerals from Trepča, collection of minerals and ores from Serbia, collection of meteorites, rich collections of paleoflora and paleofauna of Serbia, collections of amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, the entomological collection etc.

The Museum also includes a specialized scientific library, with over 20,000 titles of books, manuscripts and scientific journals, geographical and geological maps.

The pedagogical service of the Museum cooperates with numerous schools in Belgrade and Serbia.

The Museum includes the Gallery, situated within the Belgrade fortress of Kalemegdan. It is used for exhibitions, presentations, lectures and promotions. Each year there are 5-7 exhibits of various exhibitions. The Museum organizes an intensive multimedia program each year, in order to acknowledge various important ecological dates: Wetland Day, Biodiversity Day, World Water Day, European Bat Night, Days of European Heritage.

Problems and needs of the Museum

The surface area of the Museum is 1200 m2 and the area of Gallery at Kalemegdan is about 200 m2. The lack of space creates problems in setting a permanent exhibition, accommodation of collections, richer thematic exhibitions and organizing special programs, particularly for children. The solution of these problems would include acquisition of a new appropriate museum building.

Present activities of the Museum

The Museum has young, highly educated employees. Among the 43 employees there are five Doctors, eight Magisters and several graduate students. The Museum has an internal computer network, so almost every employed expert has their own computer and internet access; curators are participating very intensively in national and international scientific and expert meetings and seminars; scientific papers are commonly published in expert and scientific journals; there is a high participation in numerous national and international projects.

The Museum cooperates with other museum institutions in Serbia, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, University and Faculties, as well as SASA. The employees of the Museum are very active within the Museum Association of Serbia and the International Museum Organization ICOM Serbia.

The Museum maintains a good cooperation with media (preparing special TV programs and films; guests in radio and TV program; reports, interviews, newspaper articles) and publishing houses (where the Museum participates in preparing expert works and monographs for publication).
The Museum is also hosting the nongovernmental organizations such as the Center for Animal Marking, active in studying and monitoring of migration of birds and bats, as well as the Wildlife Protection Society “Mustela”.

Vision of Museum’s future

The Natural History Museum has acquired the status of institution of national importance, both in fields of culture of science, as an important scientific center for the scientific fields of ecology, environmental and biodiversity conservation.

The long-term strategy of the Museum includes the tasks of continuous accumulation of knowledge and personal capacities, increase in scope of collections, strengthening the influence on society, starting new processes, maintaining better communication with the audience and fulfilling not only cultural and educational but also emotional needs of audience.

The future priorities of the Museum include setting of a permanent exhibit and organizing some more attractive thematic and study exhibitions, preparing good museum programs and creating a brand for the Museum, as a unique center of cultural, scientific and educational activities.

Territorial scope

Republic of Serbia

Changes of territorial scope:

1895: Kingdom of Serbia
1956: FNR Yugoslavia (primarily NR Serbia)
1957: NR Serbia
1973: Territory of SR Serbia without the autonomous provinces
1990: Republic of Serbia

At the time when the Museum was founded, its territorial scope has officially included the then Kingdom of Serbia. However, the emissaries, teachers in Serbian schools in then Turkey and diplomats have helped in collecting the museum specimens from the areas of “Serbian land” that was not freed from Turkish role at the time: Southern Serbia, Kosovo and Metohija, Macedonia (both the Greek and Former Yugoslav part), including the marine fauna of Thessaloniki Bay. Later, after each war, the Museum had sent teams to newly freed territories in order to collect the natural history material as soon as possible.

As the living organisms in nature neither acknowledge nor respect the territorial-political borders of human society, and as the natural history museums deal with objects that represent the inseparable part of total nature, the strict territorial separation is not advisable. Therefore the Natural History Museum has been collecting material from all over the World, in order to present the entirety and uniqueness of natural value to people living within its territorial scope. However, the main area of Museum’s activities is the territory of Serbia, as well as the neighboring countries and border areas, if the individual natural processes necessitate that. Therefore the Natural History Museum contains collections of regional and sub-continental importance (particularly from Bulgaria, Albania and Greece). In the period preceding 1991, the Natural History Museum was the most active museum of natural history at the whole territory of Yugoslav countries, so its collections are rich in objects from Slovenia, Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. The lack of existence of a natural history museum in Montenegro until 1996 has necessitated the need that the Natural History Museum in Belgrade had to include the territory of Montenegro more intensively in its studies.


Headquarters: 11000 Belgrade, Njegoševa 51

Gallery: 11000 Belgrade, Mali Kalemegdan 5

Changes of address

1899: Legacy House of Stevča Mihajlović at Vračar (corner of Miloša Velikog St. 15, later 31, and Birčaninova St.)
1939: Buildings of First Girls’ Gymnasium at Njegoševa 51 and Knjeginje Zorke 57.

Before the Museum was founded, the natural history collections were stored at Great School at Kapetan Miša’s Building, and partly at the Ministry of Industry. After the approval by Minister of Education Andro Đorđević from October 28th 1899, the Museum was temporarily housed together with the ethnographic collections of National Museum at the Legacy House of Stevča Mihajlović, until a new common building (Academy/Museum/Library) is built. After 40 years of such temporary accommodation of this Museum, the building of Stevča Mihajlović’s legacy was torn down in order to build a new museum building at the same place. In 1939 the Museum was, again temporarily, moved to the buildings of former First Girls’ Gymnasium, after the Decision by Minister of Education Dimitrije Magarešević from May 3rd 1938.

As the purpose-built building at the plot of Stevča Mihajlović was never built, and no other appropriate accommodation was found, the Museum is still situated in completely unsuitable buildings of former First Girls’ Gymnasium. The area of about 1200 m2 is absolutely insufficient for the needs and activities of Natural History Museum, accommodation and safe storage of collections, and laboratories and working rooms. Therefore the Museum does not have the necessary conditions for realization of permanent exhibition and is not able to show to the public the richness of its collections. The Gallery of Natural History Museum at Kalemegdan, with 196 m2, is suitable only for small thematic exhibitions.


Museum owns 117 larger and smaller collections.

Before the Museum was formally founded, it was common to call the collections at Natural History cabinets at Velika Škola “Jestastvenički muzej” (“the Natural Science Museum”) as it was already widely accepted that they will form the basic foundation of the future new museum. This became official after the Approval by Minister of Education at April 19th 1901. By 1903 the natural history collections, which included almost 4000 specimens and were very rich and important for its time, were transferred to Stevča’s building. Very soon the Museum acquired additional 1000 specimens as a gift. The total number of processed specimens is presently estimated to over 1,300,000. The precise number is impossible to determine due to several factors. According to the organization of each collection the documentation units are defined in different ways. For example, in the Herbarium one unit is one herbarium sheet, which usually contains more than one specimen. About 400,000 objects were included in the book of incoming specimens (collector’s book) as groups of specimens, as due to lack of space it is impossible to sort them and perform an inventory. About 100,000 specimens were not inventoried as in our country there are no specialists who could perform competent identification. The Museum stores several hundred holotypes and unique mineralogical, petrologic, botanical and zoological specimens of extraordinary scientific importance.

Activity of Museum

Culture, science, education

As an institution specialized in collecting, storing, studying and presenting mobile cultural assets of nature, the Museum has three main fields of activity: cultural, scientific and educational. They are closely interconnected and cannot be separated during the museum activities. Collecting and storing the objects from nature fulfill their purpose and acquire their real value only after the study and scientific valorization. Then the objects may also fulfill their cultural-educational role.