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.

Renovation and conversion

The ship Galeb is interesting for two reasons. Firstly it is a valuable example of shipbuilding industrial heritage. The various roles that it has played throughout history give it additional historical importance.

It was launched as a cargo ship, and continued to sail as a minelayer, a school ship and a residential yacht, only to end laid-up at the beginning of the 21st century, decaying.

The renovation of the ship began in 2019. The representative parts of the ship are being returned by reconstruction and restoration to, as much as possible, their original condition. All procedures are secondary to this in the conversion of the ship, which will write the final part of its biography as a ship-museum.

The project of the conversion of Galeb into a ship-museum envisaged that it would remain moored in the port of Rijeka and with its contents become an important component of the cultural life of the city.

The primary task of the project is the musealisation of the ship as a valuable protected movable cultural asset. In this way, Galeb is preserved in its entirety, and the basic features of its space are also retained. The representative parts of the ship are being returned by reconstruction and restoration to, as much as possible, their original condition.

After the restoration, reconstruction and conservation, 80% of the ship will remain accessible to visitors. This will include a section with a permanent museum exhibition. The improvement of the ship with its various contents, thematically and temporally related to the ship is becoming an important component of the ship’s life. Galeb takes on the role of a place where a number of events take place such as theatre performances, forums, performances, educational workshops, video projections and other contents that are realised primarily by Rijeka’s cultural institutions. In this way, the ship becomes one of the city’s cultural and tourist attractions, a place for educational and scientific gatherings and workshops. The remaining 20% is intended for “non-museum” contents, such as a restaurant/cafe and hostel.

Permanent exhibition

Galeb’s permanent museum exhibition focuses on the ship as an object, on the values embedded in it, and on the events that it has gone through.

By highlighting the varied aspects from its biography over the 4,500 square metres of the ship’s space, it becomes a unique example of the presentation of cultural heritage in a technical, cultural and historical-political sense.

The concept of the permanent display was conceived by the City Museum of Rijeka, and it also obtained documentary material (objects, photographs, archival films and alike) and created a collaboration with designers in the realisation of the exhibition. It did this after it had, in collaboration with the Conservation Department of the Ministry of Culture in Rijeka, organised the inventorying, storage and restoration of the furniture, fittings and other items from Galeb.