By: Branislav Cvetković, museum advisor
Along with collections and study material, our Museum also has an extensive library fund with thousands of studies and periodicals. Books and magazines were acquired in different ways, and on the basis of special criteria, in 1992, a considerable number of copies were selected, which today make up Collection of Old and Rare Books and are protected as cultural assets. However, there are certain books in the museum library that attract special attention…
One such is a large format book that arrived in the museum library in an unknown way. It is possible that it arrived together with other copies of books when in 1960s the National Museum in Belgrade donated a number of duplicates of domestic and foreign periodicals to our museum. It is a monograph about a painter who, during the 1830s, repeatedly portrayed members of the Indian tribes of the American Midwest and which belonged to the famous writer Veljko Petrović (1884-1967). The opening sheet reveals the book was a double gift. A paper with a letterhead of the USA Embassy in Belgrade from December 28, 1960 was pasted on it, which contains official dedication of George Henry, then attaché for culture, to V. Petrović, then director of the National Museum in Belgrade (1944-1962). The dedication says that the gift was made on behalf of the attaché and his wife on occasion of the upcoming New Year’s holidays and that he hopes that the book will be of interest to V. Petrović. Apart from being a writer, Petrović achieved significant results as researcher of cultural and historical heritage. In the upper right corner of the page is another dedication, written with a pen, with which he leaves the book to the National Museum.
The author of the book was the picturesque Harold McCracken (1894-1983), writer, explorer, Alaskan grizzly hunter, photographer, cinematographer and producer, who, just as he was finishing this book, became founder of the Buffalo Bill Museum Center in Cody, Wyoming, and due to his merits, a research library in the same city was named after him. McCracken dedicated his richly illustrated book to the life work of George Catlin (1796-1872), the first American painter and explorer who visited many Indian tribes, recorded appearance of their settlements, clothing, equipment, weapons, jewelry as well as portraits of individuals. Although he went bankrupt after failing to sell his “Indian gallery” to the state, Catlin’s works were bought by a Philadelphia businessman who then bequeathed them to the Smithsonian Museum, Washington.