Collection of Photographs
Photo-documentation fund is the largest collection in Military Museum and it consists of material recorded on glass plates, negatives and photos. For easier orientation in abundance of material, photo-documentation is divided in special periods. Fund “Earlier War History” includes period from first photographs in Serbia until the End of First World War. This, perhaps most significant fund, contains very important photographs that represent cultural heritage of Serbian people.
Many photos from this fund are already known to public because they are portrayed in almost every History books, newspaper articles, and essays about this period. There are also lot of photos of Serbian Royal dynasties, both Obrenović and Karadjordjević, then of many famous and important persons but also of many young people that are about to become famous in history. That is the case with young cadet of 32. class of Serbian Royal Military Academy, Vojislav Tankosić or with young lieutenant Živojin Mišić. Considering that Serbian history of early 20th century is marked with great war efforts, first in Balkan Wars of Liberation and then in First World War, photos from this period are mostly documentary photos of human atrocities, suffering but also of battle for survival. Correct understanding of photography made possible to influence public opinion in foreign countries through their publishing in newspapers. Serbian Army also used photography as a mighty mean for moral boost of its own troops. The best example for this is the case of Danube division’s memo from 12 November 1917, which is being kept together with photo in depot of Military Museum.
After 1918 and after First World War had finished, interest for photography have not stopped. Now in peaceful times, numerous photographers have been capturing important events that have been occupying attention of public in newly formed country. These photos are now stored in Press Bureau fund. Scenes of ceremonies when important treaties were signed like the Small Antanta treaty or the Balkan Antanta treaty, of formal receptions of various foreign delegations like delegation of US Army Chief of the General Staff, general Douglas MacArthur in September 1931. However there are much more photos that show life of ordinary people and soldiers. Regimental feasts, maneuvers, parades, gymnastic exercises, shooting exercises that clearly show us every day peaceful assignments of Royal Army.
New World War, sufferings, atrocities, fear and pain were again in front of objectives of numerous amateur and professional photographers. Aware of great power of photography, all sides in this conflict tried to capture as many important events as they could and used it for their own propaganda. Disaster and capitulation of Royal Army and transfer of captured officers and soldiers to captivity has also been recorded by photographer’s objectives. Especially stirring are pictures of German occupation and their reprisals over civilians like massacres in Šabac, Kraljevo and Kragujevac, than hanging of patriots on street lanterns in Belgrade etc. Resistance movements that have risen in entire Serbia also had their own photographers that have captured battles and events of those glorious days of uprising against occupation up until final victory of NOV forces and surrender of German units in Slovenia in May 1945. Of all photos that are kept in Second World War fund, most striking are ones that were collected by State Commission for Establishing of War Crimes. Scenes of massacred bodies look horrifying to those who take even a glimpse on them. These photos are extremely important because they are the only way to show present generation true horrors of war.
Researchers often find interesting series of photos captured by official photographers and photo-reporters that have followed different enemy units. The biggest collection of that type is one of German reporters which took photos of German’s Army campaign against Soviet Union and in North Africa. There is also a special fund of photos that followed development of Yugoslav post war armed forces, but also photos taken during the Civil War and Breaking of Yugoslavia during 90’s.
There is also a special collection of photos and movies of famous persons that have visited Military Museum. Museum had the honour to be host to British Queen Elisabeth (1970), Prince Charles (1978), President of France, François Mitterrand (1983), Vietnamese Prime Minister Ho Chi Minh (1957), Cuban revolutionary and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Che Guevara (1957) etc. Photo-archive of Military Museum tries to keep up with latest digital technologies so we started digitalisation of entire photo-collection. This will make this huge cultural heritage of our nation accessible to large number of historians.
Curator of the Collection - Nataša Tomić