In the past

The ship known today as Galeb was once called RAMB III. It was built for Italian state-owned company Regia Azienda Monopolio Banane (RAMB). The company was founded by the Italian Ministry of Colonies, which held a monopoly over banana export from the Italian East Africa (today’s Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea). In 1936, the company purchased four high speed vessels ships with Fiat’s engines, RAMB III being one of them. RAMB III was launched in 1938 in Ansaldo shipyard in Genova. At the beginning World War 2, the ship started serving military purposes, transporting meat for the Italian army in Libya, after which it became an auxiliary battle cruiser. In 1941, its bow suffered damage in Benghazi from a torpedo launched by the British submarine HMS Triumph. With daft manoeuvres, the ship sailed sternwise towards Italy, crossing 900 miles all the way to Sicily, from where it was hauled to San Marco shipyard in Trieste.

After the surrender of Italy, the ship ended in the hands of the Germans. The Germans completed the repairing process and transformed the ship into a minelayer, naming it Kiebitz. It was sent to the area of Rijeka, where it laid more than five thousand mines. On 5 November 1944, it was sunk the Rijeka harbour by the bombs of the Allies’ aircraft.

In November 1947, Brodospas company arranged for the ship to be hauled to the surface. It was quite an endeavour, which involved a pioneer technology based on air cylinders. The ship was pulled up in March 1948 and immediately transported to Pula where it was disassembled and reconstructed for the needs of the Yugoslav Navy. At first it served as its training ship, after which it became the residential yacht of the Yugoslav president and commander in chief, Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

In 1952 Tito stayed on the ship for the first time, while in 1953 he set off to his first foreign journey – to London. This journey symbolized Yugoslavia’s opening to the West, following the split with Stalin and the Eastern Bloc. After that, Tito continued his journeys aboard Galeb, maintaining the role Yugoslavia had in the Non-Aligned Movement. Numerous meetings of politicians and country leaders were held there; the global politics from the period of Cold War was created on its decks. The ship hosted world leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Gamal Abdel Naser, Haile Selassie, Sukarno, Kwame Nkrumah, Leonid Brezhnev, Nikita Khrushchev, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Indira Gandhi, Urho Kekkonen and others. Tito’s last journey aboard this ship was in 1979. After his death, the spaces of “the Marshal’s Deck” were opened for visits to schools, organizations, etc.

After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Galeb was relocated to Boka Kotorska in Montenegro. In the end of 1990s, it was sold to a Greek ship-owner who entrusted Rijeka’s shipyard Viktor Lenac with the task of repair. However, the shipowner went bankrupt and the repairs were not made. In 2006, the Croatian Ministry of Culture classified Galeb as a cultural heritage of the Republic of Croatia and in 2009, the city of Rijeka bought it with an intention of transforming it into a museum.

Conversion

Listed as a cultural asset of the Republic of Croatia, Galeb is a valuable example of the country’s shipbuilding industry. The roles it has served over the years add another layer to its historical importance and make it even more interesting. Enriched with a museum display that will draw attention to its resume, this ship will become a unique example of presenting a cultural heritage in technical, cultural, historical and political sense.

The project of converting Galeb into a museum will keep the ship anchored in Rijeka’s harbour and transform it into an important part of the city’s cultural life. Hence, the primary task of the project is to carry out the musealization of the ship as a valuable and protected cultural asset, and to fill it with various contents that would be related to it in terms of topics and historical context. The ship is expected to become a place for all kinds of events, such as theatre shows, public talks, performances, workshops, video projections and other activities offered by Rijeka’s cultural institutions. It will become the city’s cultural and tourist attraction, a place of scientific gatherings and workshops.

Preservation and presentation

The main guideline and the fundamental task of the Galeb project is the preservation of the ship and its presentation as a valuable exhibit. In its transformation into a museum ship, Galeb and its spaces will not lose any of their original characteristics. The representational part of the ship will be fully restored and reconstructed and all the processes of converting this training vessel / residential yacht into a museum ship will be devoted to the task. The permanent display would focus on the values that were built into it over the years, including the events that played significant part in its life.

The City Museum of Rijeka is in charge of creating the concept and the scenario for the ship’s permanent display. It gathers the material (objects, photographs, archive footage) and collaborates with the design engineers in all the key processes. In addition, in collaboration with the Rijeka Department for Conservation, the Museum organizes the tasks of compiling the inventory and handling the restoration of furniture, equipment and other items from Galeb. Thanks to the project, 80 percent of the ship will be restored, conserved and made available to visitors, while the remaining 20 percent of the space will be reserved for “non-museum” features – a restaurant/café bar and a hostel.

Fotografije Petar Kürschner
Fotografije Petar Kürschner