History and Traditions, Serbian Community

Serbian Heritage Museum

May 2, 2020
Katarina Marković
San Issue 20 - Spring/Пролеће 2020

Serbian Heritage Museum in Windsor Ontario celebrates 33 years of service this year. The museum is of great importance to Serbian people in diaspora because it is a unique place where numerous artifacts that represent the memories of lives of Serbian people in Canada, Serbian culture, as well as customs can be found. In the biggest Serbian museum outside of Serbian borders one can find national costumes, old photographs, rare books, musical instruments, newspapers, and various documents. According to Julka Vlajić, the board member of the Serbian Heritage Museum in Canada, "the oldest exhibit in the museum is the 19th century postage stamp from the reign of King Milan and bolero jacket from 1889."

The movement to preserve Serbian cultural heritage in Windsor and Canada was started by a group of five ladies who began meeting in 1972. Their work within the Community of Serbian Women for preservation of Serbian heritage was committed to promoting Serbian culture and heritage. A few years later, the idea of the Serbian Heritage Museum was conceived. With a lot of hard work and subsidy from the Government of Ontario, the museum was officially opened on August 27th, 1987. The greatest contribution for the establishment of the Serbian Heritage Museum in Windsor belongs to Stanislava Marković. Stanislava Marković was born in Kruševac on November 24th, 1919. She started going to school in her hometown but completed high school and Teacher' s College in Belgrade. After getting married to the aviation officer Vukašin Marković, the final destination of the married couple was Canada in 1950.

"Today, the board members of the museum run all the museum operations with the help of a small group of volunteers. The museum is financed by donations and assistance from Canadian government institutions. Donors are mostly individuals and sometimes Canadian enterprises and organisations. With the help of the Canadian government, sometimes we get students who are on summer vacation to help us maintain the museum collection. Exhibits are mostly donated by individuals but also by various organisations,“ according to Julka Vlajić.

Since the beginning of its establishment to this date, the museum has held a number of exhibitions, such as the exhibition dedicated to Serbian literature and journalism, the exhibition dedicated to Serbian athletes from Windsor, the exhibition on Serbian Slava (Patron Saint Day), the exhibition on folklore, Serbian history exhibition, and many others.

Another in the series of major thematic exhibitions of the Serbian Heritage Museum is the exhibition dedicated to sport. From the early settlements in 1929, Serbian immigrants were known as talented athletes. First Serbian athletic organisation was established on March 24th, 1929 under the name of Soko. The original sport club Soko stopped working in the 1930’s due to the economic crisis but several years later emerged as a Serbian basketball club under the same name, Soko. Basketball club Soko has accomplished a series of successes and won many games from 1940 to 1943.

All of the above-mentioned wealth as well as many other valuable documents, the museum converted to electronic format last year. The project was funded by the Government of Ontario through the Museums and Technology fund. Museum board members as well as volunteers involved in the work of the museum are grateful to province of Ontario for the Digitization Project. 

"The theme of the current exhibition is 800 years of autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The goal of the exhibition is to introduce to the wider audience the rich history of the Serbian Orthodox Church. At the entrance of the museum, the image of St. Sava dominates the set up. The image of St. Sava starts from the ceiling and extends all the way to the floor thus creating a vivid picture of his guidance over us. The exhibition begins to the left with the explanation of the beginnings of Christianity in Serbia, as well as 800 years of autocephaly, then continues to the right with the chronological presentation of Christianity and with Monastery Ziča in the background, as the first headquarters of the Serbian archdiocese. In the central part of the room the models of Ravanica and the Windsor Gračanica are exhibited and then the chronological representation of the Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs from St. Sava to our time Archbishops and Patriarchs with the Virgin Ljeviška in the background. In addition to the image of St. Sava there are also posters of Nemanjić family and their foundation and a special spot is dedicated to the exhibit of the jubilee stamp and envelope of the Serbian Post (Pošta Srbije). Going further, we come across the map of Serbia with marked monasteries, as well as the special map of Kosovo and Metohija, which shows all our sanctities, destroyed and preserved, with the part of writing from Patriarch Pavle on the endowments of this Serbian province. At the end, there is a picture and description of St. Sava Temple. The texts were written in English and Serbian. We are very pleased to emphasize that the exhibition attracted great interest with visitors who are not Serbian. As guests at the opening ceremony, we had priests of other religions, member of the Canadian Parliament, as well as members of various nationalities. Since church schools have expressed interest in our event, we decided to extend the duration of the exhibition "Serbian Orthodox Church - 800 years of autocephaly" until early March of 2020.  We invite the readers of SAN Magazine to send us an email to info@serbianheritagemuseum.com, if they'd like to visit us.  You may also see the full exhibition at the following link http://www.serbianheritagemuseum.com/virtual-tour/," said Ms. Vlajić.

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