The history of the Museum
The history of the Museum begins with several lovers of native cultural heritage (Franjo Lešić, Ivica Svirčević, Josip Lončarević, Josip Hudolin, Julije Popović, Mato Vujković, Ivica Bačoka, Ivan Balentović Beli, Josip Matasović, Miroslav Poljak, Stanko Juzbašić, Florijan Đaković, Ivan Galović, Emilija Romić, Mirko Lacković), led by Stjepan Gruber, who wanted "to start a historical collection of archive material and items likely to be damaged" in Županja. In other words, they wanted to preserve the material found during "the examination of the former Županja county archive" (carried out in June 1953 by the Croatian State Archives experts from Zagreb) and destined to be processed at the Paper Factory. The material found was archive material "of the utmost historical and local importance", as well as historical and ethnological material. On 4th August 1953, the Museum in Županja was officially founded by a decision of the People’s Committee of the Županja County, Department of Education and Culture, and Stjepan Gruber was appointed as manager, i.e. Head of the Museum.
During the first several years, the Museum in Županja was also known as the Museum Collection in Županja, or even as the County Museum at times, and newspapers used to call it the Posavina Museum. The first premises of the Museum (a single room) were located in the building of the Županja Municipal Committee.
In December 1968, the Museum in Županja was officially founded by a decision of the Županja Municipal Council, but it was only on 15th January 1980 that the decision of the Republic Committee for Education, Culture and Physical and Technical Education of the Socialist Republic of Croatia confirmed that the Museum in Županja "meets all the demands set out in the Article 19 of the Act on Museum Activities".
In December 1953 Association of Friends of Museums in Županja and Stjepan Gruber issued a proclamation asking the inhabitants of Posavina and the Županja area to donate items for the future Museum, where they would be "safely and appropriately kept". The Association continued to encourage public involvement in the Županja area in 1954, when a series of lectures on the importance of museums, the history of the Military Border, and ethnographic heritage was held by Danica Pinterović, Zdenka Lechner and Mira Malbaša from Osijek, Antun Bauer from Zagreb, and Josip Korda and Dionizije Švagelj from Vinkovci. Stjepan Gruber documented the fact that 350 benefactors donated various items to the Museum during some three years of its existence, which is a valuable testimony to the amount of attention given to the founding of the Museum and its importance for the Županja area. Another extraordinary piece of information found in the Museum documentation is that a few years later, in 1964, the Museum in Županja received some 9 500 visits.
In 1954 the Museum was given the whole Military Border guardhouse building. However, the building had been private property and, as such, a residential building, so the evacuation of its tenants continued to pose a significant problem to the Museum for a number of years. The permanent display of the Museum was officially mounted on 4th July 1957 on the partially revamped ground floor of the guardhouse. However, 1957 is frequently considered to be not only the year when the Museum moved to the guardhouse and the permanent display was mounted, but also the year when the Museum in Županja was founded.
After several years of existence and increasingly intensive work, the necessity to find a new location to house the rich museum material arose. Thanks to Stjepan Gruber’s long-lasting efforts and the help of the museum community, especially Dr. Antun Bauer, the Youth Centre (Agency) became an integral part of the Museum in 1977.
After Stjepan Gruber’s death, on 7th April 1970, Krunoslav Tkalac was appointed as acting manager of the Museum and Ivan Jelić, a curator-historian, started working in the Museum in July.
As soon as he was appointed, Krunoslav Tkalac had to face the demands for closing and degradation of the Museum, i.e. for its incorporation into the Open University. Višnja Plemić, Stjepan Gruber and Krunoslav Tkalac’s successor, continued to resist such growing demands for a long time. She took over Krunoslav Tkalac’s function and became Head of the Museum at the beginning of 1974.
Despite of all their efforts, the Museum was incorporated into the Open University in Županja in 1980. Ivan Jelić left the Museum in 1981 and Manda Zelić, a curator-historian, joined the Museum staff the same year. She filled the position of the Head of the Museum after Višnja Plemić left and performed that function between 1987 and 1991. After Višnja Plemić left, Janja Juzbašić (born Crepić) joined the Museum staff. Between 1980 and 1st March 1990 Branko Sinčić was the manager of the Open University and the Head of the incorporated Museum, and Viktor Primorac also carried out that function for a while (1st March – 30th November 1990).
When Croatia gained its independence, the Museum in Županja followed the country’s footsteps. On 29th March 1991 the Županja Municipal Council decided to found a local history museum as "a company of special public interest". On 30th April 1991 Janja Juzbašić was appointed as acting manager of the Museum. During that transitional period, she put in a lot of effort to register the Museum at the county business court in Osijek and harmonize other legal acts (pass a new statute, set out new rules, etc.). By 1993, the Museum had changed its name several times and it was on 15th February 1993 that the decision of the county business court in Osijek allowed it to be officially registered. In August 1993, Janja Juzbašić was appointed as Head of the Museum and she remained in that function until December 1996. Those were difficult times for the Museum because at the time of the Croatian Independence War, the Museum had to regain its independence and safeguard valuable museum material. The permanent displays in the Guardhouse and the Agency were dismounted and the material was sent to other towns. It was only in 1997 that the museum material was recovered and placed in Stjepan Gruber - Local History Museum.
At the end of 1996, after the curator Manda Zelić had left, a curator-archaeologist Boško Marijan joined the Museum and became its Head in 1996. He continued to perform that function until the end of 2004. In May 2005 Boško Marijan left the Museum and Mirjana Pušak started working there as an archaeologist. At the end of 2004, Janja Juzbašić became Head of the Museum once again and she still performs that function.