Marijana Gušić

Marijana Gušić, Courtesy of Ethnographic Museum

18 February 1901 – 6 February 1987

Born in Zagreb in 1901 as Marijana von Heneberg, she graduated from the Classical Gymnasium in in 1919. She studied history, geography and Slavic studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and graduated in history and geography in 1924. She was an ethnologist and museologist who, together with her partner and husband, Branimir Gušić, an otolaryngologist and professor at the Faculty of Medicine, toured the mountains of the Balkans from the age of sixteen. They were both passionate mountaineers.

Gušić became a member of the Croatian Mountaineering Association in 1919, and is one of the founders of its “Sljeme” branch. She hiked in Gorski Kotar, the Slovenian and Dinaric Alps, and she was the first woman from Croatia to climb the Triglav North Face. In the 1920s and 30s, the Croatian Mountaineering Association “Sljeme” had an amateur film section, through which Branimir and Marijana, with the help of the Viennese cinematographer Karl Koranek, filmed their mountaineering endeavor in the summer of 1931 – the journey from Zagreb, through Montenegrin hills and forests, all the way to the top of Durmitor. Along the way, they recorded life in mountain villages and thus made the earliest contribution to the contemporary discipline of visual anthropology in the region. Marijana frequently gave lectures in Croatia and abroad, wrote mountaineering travelogues, and translated mountaineering guides into Croatian.

From 1927 to 1940, she worked as a professor in Zagreb, when she retired at her own request. At the beginning of World War II, she joined the National Liberation Movement (NOB) as a non-fighter. She was arrested in 1942 and deported to Vienna in 1943, where her husband was also sent to do forced labor.

After the WWII, Gušić was appointed director of the Ethnographic Museum in Zagreb, where she insisted on the study of social structures, phonographic and photographic recording in the field, and other contemporary ethnographic methods. Together with her collaborators, she made an important conceptual shift in the museum’s display, where the materials were for the first time classified according to the characteristics of the ethnographic cultural zones: Pannonian, Dinaric and Adriatic. 

In 1955, Gušić completed one of her capital contributions to the Ethnographic Museum – Interpreter of the Exhibited Materials. On 196 pages of text with 46 black-and-white photos, she presented a scientific treatment of the exhibition units, which to this day represents an overview of the material culture of Croatian ethnography and remains indispensable literature for every ethnologist.

Her work in Kumrovec is particularly interesting: designing and managing the Marshal Tito Memorial Museum, and then encouraging the expansion of the project to protect the ethnographic heritage of the region by establishing the first open-air ethno-museum, Staro selo – Kumrovec. Gušić arranged the home of the Broz family and thus shaped the mythology of Tito’s upbringing. She saw the value of such a park as a tourist attraction, which has been almost entirely neglected to date.

In parallel with her museum work, Gušić also intensified field research in numerous localities in Istria, Croatian Zagorje, Međimurje and Slavonia. In 1949, she became an associate member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in the Committee for National Life and Customs, and she was also an honorary member of the Austrian Ethnographic Society. Her contribution to the institutions she worked for and her pedagogical work with younger colleagues are well-known in professional circles. 

Museum “Staro selo”, Kumrovec. Photography by Miroslav Vajdić, Wikimedia Commons

Museum "Staro selo", Josip Broz Street 19, Kumrovec

Museum "Staro selo" Kumrovec is the first and most famous open-air ethnographic museum in Croatia. In addition to the birth house of Josip Broz Tito, the museum consists of about 30 preserved and restored traditional residential and commercial buildings containing exhibitions of crafts and customs of the Zagorje region from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

At the end of the 1940s, the idea arose to incorporate the core of Kumrovec under the heritage protection measures, and for this purpose Gušić wrote a study on this settlement. In 1950, she developed an ethnographic presentation of a part of Tito's house. She also created a catalogue for the preservation of 61 buildings in Kumrovec and Lončari. In 1969, "Staro selo" Kumrovec was registered in the Register of cultural monuments of 1st category.