Manak’s House was built about 1830 in Savamalska Street, by an old road that connected Varoš-Kapija (City Gate) and the old Belgrade urban neighbourhood of Savamala. One of its owners was Manak Mihailović, a Tzintzar (Aromanian) immigrant from Macedonia. The house was named after him and it has retained the name until the present day.
The irregular shape of the building’s ground plan was determined by the shape of the lot on which it was built. This timber-framed house consists of a cellar built of stone, a ground floor and an upper story. The ground floor housed an inn and a bakery, while residential rooms were located on the upper story. Manak’s House is one of the rare preserved examples of residential Oriental or Balkan-style architecture in Belgrade.
Following the conservation and restoration works undertaken between 1964 and 1968 by the Belgrade City Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and aimed at adjusting the building to house the Memorial Ethnographic Collection of Hristifor Crnilović, it was turned into a museum.
The permanent exhibition Traditional Folk Dress and Jewellery of the Central Balkan Area in the 19th and the First Decades of the 20th Century is set up on the upper story of Manak’s House. The exhibited items originate from the Shopi, Morava and Vardar regions. The ground floor is used for temporary exhibitions and various programmes inspired by traditional culture of the Serbs (concerts, lectures, training courses in traditional crafts, etc.)
Hristifor Crnilović was born in 1886 in Vlasotince. He studied painting in Belgrade and Munich. He showed an early interest in studying and collecting objects of ehnographic and artistic value that belonged to the Serbian cultural heritage of Southern Serbia, Kosovo and Metohija and Macedonia. After the death of Hristifor Crnilović, his heirs handed over the collection to the City of Belgrade under the condition it was kept as a separate unit.
The city authorities allocated a renovated old building – Manak’s House – to house the collection and put it under the auspices of the Ethnographic Museum.
The collection includes 2,600 objects of great cultural value, 1,617 negative plates of the photos taken during his field research, about 23,000 handwritten leaves with notes made during field research or from literature, as well as more than 700 books and journals mostly dealing with history and ethnography. Traditional rural and urban dress and jewellery make the greatest part of the collection. Household items, wood-carved pieces of interior decoration, various pieces of cookware and tableware, kilims (rugs), tools used in crafts and trades, smoking and writing accessories, combs, tools for spinning and dyeing yarn and weaving, weapons, pieces of horse equipment, musical instruments, religious relics, ritual objects, etc. are represented to a lesser extent.
As Hristifor Crnilović had an interest in objects that had come down from even earlier periods, archaeological and numismatic items (Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman coins, as well as medieval Serbian coins and jewellery) can also be seen in the collection. He collected about 500 picture postcards with depictions of traditional folk dress, ornaments and folk dances from throughout the former Yugoslavia.
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