Cultural heritage as a specific characteristic of one area, region or country, represents an integral part of European, i.e. world cultural heritage. Whether we are speaking about Knjaževac, Timočkakrajina, Serbia or another country, what we recognise as “our” cultural heritage, in the widest sense, is actually just a small fragment or element of the corpus of world cultural heritage, the history of the world. The special question which largely influences the relation to and the manner of treating one’s own cultural heritage, is the question of valuing and understanding it.
Cultural heritage in concert with the natural surroundings creates a cultural landscape which in a special way reflects the cooperation between people and nature. Specific architectonic entities, historical trading districts, bridges, individual cultural monuments or monument entities are just some of the elements creating a specific image and impression of a certain place. On the other hand, the most important trait, potential and wealth of a place are people. They reflect the “spirit of the city”, spread and emit messages deeply woven into the genetic code of every living being. They are the conveyors of sense, meaning, memory, identity…
This is the case with the town of Knjaževac, which although small, has been home to geat people, and which today, as a winner of the European Destinations of Excellence Award (EDEN), through its charm and rich natural and cultural heritage, attracts numerous researchers, visitors, tourists, adventurers, gourmands, enjoyers in a special way…
In this sense, the Homeland Museum of Knjaževac, as „a small local“ museum, observes and treats the cultural heritage of the Knjaževac area as the greatest potential for the future, the most important resource for sustainable development of the local community, which although very rich is not sustainable. Hence, while believing in the sustainable “use” of cultural heritage, we base on and relate all our programmes and projects to cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. On the other hand, our museum is developing different programmes and projects assuming international partnerships, exchange of knowledge and experiences, joint activities. We also participated in cross-border cooperation programmes, cooperated with colleagues from the region and the area of former Yugoslavia, which certainly should be marked as a period representing bright moments of our shared European past, regardless of different interpretations and perceptions of the former state.
Museums and cultural institutions are a part of the educational system. It is very important that in our work, apart from constant endeavours to improve the operation of cultural institutions and raising awareness of the importance of preserving and presenting cultural heritage, that we also develop educational programmes intended for the widest audience. Precisely this approach is giving us an opportunity to relate the data we are reaching through our work to the surroundings we are inhabiting, to specific periods and important historical moments, comparing and making parallels. What is interesting for comparing and understanding what we know as European heritage today are the Medieval period, Renaissance, Baroque, the Enlightenment and the Romance period, the industrial revolution, and of course the inevitable wars, inter-war and post-war periods, the second half of XX century…
An important step in interpreting the European identity is the inclusion of Serbia into the great international project of studying visual culture and the private life, participation in projects such as the Europeana… Moreover, this also includes the initiative to certify European cultural routes, connecting with colleagues in the region and beyond, and also joint participation in international competitions, the use of international funds and programmes of marking international manifestations (Days of European Heritage and others). There are many individual examples of cooperation between our cultural institutions with corresponding European institutions. Certainly, in this sense, great attention and respect go to the activities of the Gallery of Matica Srpska, nomination of our museums for the European Museum Award (Old Village Sirogojno…), activities of the Museum of Yugoslavia, the Grand Prize of Europa Nostra fort the project of Gostuša and Vekovi Bača which we can proudly emphasise as probably the most complex and all-encompassing, the choosing of Novi Sad as the European Capital of Culture, and many others. There are numerous brilliant examples of cooperation between our cultural institutions and European partners within “smaller” projects.
In my opinion, including our institutions into the activities and programmes of the Balkan network of museums and the joint activities of Cultural heritage Without Borders in the area of the wider region contributes to new valuation and representation of shared European identity and belonging. Not only in the geographic sense, but ever other sense as well. This kind of joint initiatives, and especially their realisation, once again confirm the belonging to the group of European peoples and conveys a different message from the area of the Balkans.
Marking the European year of cultural heritage has special importance for all of us. For heritage in general. Two programmes of the Homeland Museum of Knjaževac carry the national mark EYCH, one is dedicated to the marking of one hundred years from the end of WWI, and the second one deals with preservation of intangible heritage elements and education, which in no case means that other activities cannot be put in a wider context of European heritage. Our museum equally cares about the accessibility of the programme and building for physically challenged persons (Museum for everyone – museum for the take out), it is supporting and developing a programme of social entrepreneurship the aim of which is preservation of traditional crafts and techniques (Connecting threads), knowledge and skills (Summer school of traditional crafts),for a number of years it has been conducting activities with the aim of developing educational tourism (Education adventure of the Homeland Museum), it supports the development of cultural tourism (The path of Roman emperors, Wine routes of Serbia, the Danube wine route)and it is trying to approximate content to the new audience by using modern technologies.
Milena Milošević Micić, M.A. art historian and museum professional, works as a senior curator and acting director of the Homeland Museum of Knjaževac. For the past 16 years she has been dedicated to museum profession as a curator, educator, PR, project manager, director with a main goal to develop new role of the museum in the local community through various museum programs, projects and collection interpretation and presentation. She believes that museums are public spaces open for everyone, forums for open dialogs or debates, places of unique values of common heritage. Her fields of expertise are: art history, museum studies and heritology, museum management and marketing in culture, collection management, accessibility and social inclusion, cultural and educational tourism, project management. She is a member of ICOM, Serbian Museum Association (Section for art history, pedagogy and PR& marketing) and proud member of the Balkan Museum Network’s Steering Board and Access Group and member of the American Alliance of Museums.