Nikola Tesla Museum

The Nikola Tesla Museum (Serbian: Музеј Николе Тесле / Muzej Nikole Tesle) is located in the central area of Belgrade. It holds more than 160,000 original documents, over 2,000 books and journals, over 1,200 historical technical exhibits, over 1,500 photographs and photo plates of original, technical objects, instruments and apparatus, and over 1,000 plans and drawings. The Nikola Tesla Archive was inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme Register in 2003 due to its critical role regarding history of electrification of the world and, more importantly, future technological advancements in this area.

History

The Nikola Tesla Museum is housed in a residential villa built in 1927 according to project of Dragiša Brašovan, a distinguished Serbian architect. The building was used for various purposes until December 5, 1952, when Nikola Tesla Museum was founded in accordance with the decision of the Government of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. The material for the museum was taken from New York bound for Belgrade, Yugoslavia on September 7, 1951 as a result of efforts by Sava Kosanovic, Tesla's nephew and closest relative (KGB agent, codename "KOLO", see American Espionage and Project Venona) and his attorney Wittenberg. It has been said this was "Tesla's will." No legal instrument or documentation bearing Tesla's signature has ever been found to substantiate this claim, nor has the Museum allowed an independent, unbiased researcher to verify the existence of such records. It is believed that Tesla died in testate.

It is a deviation from standard archival practice that Tesla's work is contained outside of the original geographical context in which his life occurred. Tesla was an American citizen, and considered his prize possession to be his naturalization papers. In contrast, he spent only 31 hours of his entire life in Serbia. Over the past 60 years, a number of his papers have suffered water damage from neglect. This has led historians to consider it a disservice to Tesla that his trunks were removed from the United States of America in the first place. With renewed worldwide interest about Tesla's work in the areas of mechanical and electrical engineering, full and unhindered access is expected. However, it is certain that many original documents are uncataloged and have already been lost, stolen, censored or damaged.

Today

Nikola Tesla Museum is a unique institution of science and culture. It is charged with the solemn responsibility of preserving the original engineering legacy to mankind and personal inheritance of Nikola Tesla. The present director of the Muzej is Vladimir Jelenković.

Exhibitions

The permanent exhibition was arranged in 1955. From time to time there were some modifications, but for many years the basic concept remained the same. In its first part it is primarily a memorial exhibition, while in the second part it is an interactive one, with three-dimensional models of Tesla's inventions.

From time to time the museum organizes thematic exhibitions of documents, photographs and other material in order to display some periods from Tesla's inventive life.

“Tesla's everyday life”

In 2006 the Museum prepared an exhibition called “Tesla's everyday life” containing a collection of textiles and various things used in everyday life in order to observe Tesla's 150th birthday.

Reconstruction

The Nikola Tesla Museum is currently under reconstruction. The reconstruction on the building started November 3, 2006 and the first phase of the project was supposed to have been complete by the end of 2006. The garden on the roof of the museum is to be closed from the outside by glass windows, which will turn the roof into a computer room.

Contents

The museum is divided into seven separate ground-floor rooms, with different themes, exponents, photographs and Tesla's ashes, plus a second floor housing the original physical record of Tesla's work in the areas of electrical and mechanical engineering.

Ground Floor

The life story of Nikola Tesla begins with the large-scale photograph from the period of studies in Graz (Austria). Three personal documents are placed under the photograph:

his birth certificate, his Abitur certificate from the secondary school at Karlovac, and the passport he travelled with to New York in 1894. There is also a photograph of the house which was his birthplace, and of the church where his father was the parish priest. This photograph illustrates his origin and the start of his life. A series of selected letters, placed on both sides of the photograph, witnesses the highest acknowledgements expressed to Tesla by the greatest scientists of his time: Einstein, William Crookes, Kelvin, Röntgen, Robert A. Millikan, Lee de Forest, Edwin H. Armstrong, Arthur H. Compton, Arthur E. Kennelly, Popov, Pupin, etc.

Some small things from Tesla's personal effects are selected to depict his personality, way of living and relations with other people. In the show-cases are his hat, his travelling bag and small every-day items such as invitations, theatre entrance tickets, membership cards etc.

As the most valuable souvenir he kept the piece of needlework made by his mother, the embroidered bag typical for his native land Lika.

Selected documents and photographs from correspondence with friends, writers and artists—George Westinghouse, Mark Twain, Robert U. Johnson, and others—are also in the show-case.

Records of Tesla's visit to Belgrade in 1892 in Belgrade newspapers of that time are also displayed, as well as the letters from Laza Kostic, a distinguished Serbian poet.

Photographs of Tesla's father Milutin, sisters Marica, Angelina and Milka, uncle Nikola and great-grandfather Toma are displayed in a separate show-case.

Documents on his death and funeral in New York in 1943 are contained in the last show-case.

In the third room of the Museum, in a gold-plated spherical urn on a marble pedestal with Tesla's ashes. After death Tesla was cremated and his remains were moved to Belgrade in 1957.

Contains Tesla's "Fairy Tale of Electricity" - an historical survey of man's achievement in exploring secrets of electricity; patents in the field of electro-energetic - Tesla's invention of poly-phase induction motor and a model of his system of production, transmission and distribution of electrical energy; patents in the field of high potential technic - oil transformers, and in the field of mechanical engineering - turbines.

A series of interactive models illustrating the origin of the idea of the rotating magnetic field has also been exhibited: rotation of a copper plate by induced currents, the experiment of Arago from 1825, then the Baily motor with commutated direct currents and static electromagnets (1879) and Tesla two-phase generator together with the models of synchronous and asynchronous motor operated by two-phase alternate currents.

The hydraulic analogy, made according to an idea of Tesla, acquaints visitors with his conception of the physical principles of the rotating magnetic field visually demonstrating the vectorial addition of two identical sine curves, perpendicular to each other, with the phase difference of 90°.

In 1893, at the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, Tesla's Egg of Columbus was used demonstrated the induction motor principle by spinning an egg-shaped rotor in a rotating magnetic field. This model, together with the working model of the first "genuine" induction motor with short-circuit rotor, depicts the most important part of the Tesla polyphase system.

Tesla's patents laid the foundation for the construction of new generators of polyphase currents. This is evidenced by the identification plate of one of the generators of the hydro-power plant at Niagara Falls (1899), placed next to the model of the hydro-electric system. The date of bringing the Adams Power Plant generators on line marks a milestone in the electrification of the world. The small-scale model of the hydro-energetic system with three-phase currents placed in this room demonstrates all the essential elements of this invention.

The story of Tesla's inventions is continued with the bladeless turbine, pump and speed indicator constructed 1913 - 1916 on the same principle. Tesla had occupied himself more than twenty years improving them, and it was not until the end of 20th century that these inventions began attracting attention among scientists and engineers.

The exhibits depicting Tesla's inventions in the field of currents of high frequency and high potential are the most interesting ones in the Museum.

It seems today almost inconceivable that Tesla a century ago succeeded to produce alternating currents of several tens of thousands cycles per second and several million volts. With these currents he experimented in his New York laboratories and at Colorado Springs. The results of these experiments are even today inspiring for researchers in the whole world, especially after publication of the "Colorado Springs Notes".

In the contemporary world such oscillators and high-frequency currents are being applied in wireless telecommunications engineering, industry and medicine, and advanced wireless electrical energy transmission research in accordance with Tesla's farsighted anticipation.

The high-frequency oscillator coupled with a large power supply transformer is placed in the middle of the room. It was built in 1955 in accordance with technical descriptions from the Colorado Springs Experimental Station. Its electrical potential reaches roughly 200,000 volts and for half a century has impressed visitors and fascinated children.

Beside the great oscillator there is also a smaller one, such as Tesla used in experiments with electrical discharges in tubes filled with rarefied gases. The results of these experiments laid foundations for contemporary fluorescent lighting and high-energy particle research. These experiments are not well known even among specialists. Likewise it is also unknown that Roentgen was fascinated with X-ray images of human body he received from Tesla, obtained with X-ray tubes operated with high-frequency currents.

Tesla performed his most significant experiments with currents of high frequency and high potential in the field of wireless transmission of electrical energy. On display is a model of the four concatenated tuned circuits that are the foundation of practical wireless transmission. Next to the model is the quotation from the finding of the United States Supreme Court of 1943, acknowledging Tesla's priority over Marconi in this area.

Tesla's investigations in the field of remote control are represented with the reconstructed working model of a small boat. This patented design was used in his 1898 New York experiments demonstrating the possibilities of wireless control of moving of mechanical devices (land vehicles, boats, aircraft, etc.).

Anticipating with his inventions and experiments in this field the development of remote control, Tesla was ahead of his time. The large photograph of his "World Wireless" station on Long Island New York depicts his intention to construct a transmitting station for particular purposes. That station was built in 1900 for wireless trans-Atlantic telephony, to broadcast news and music, to transmit text and images, and also to demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale electrical power transmission. This great plan remains unrealized.

Numerous decorations, honorary diplomas and awards exhibited in the last part of the exhibition symbolize the significance of his inventions. However, the greatest award was granted to him post-mortem by the International Commission for Electrical Engineering at its session in Philadelphia in 1960. The Commission decided to give the name "tesla" to the unit of magnetic induction. In this way Tesla became equally ranked with such outstanding scientists as Volta, Ampere, Faraday, Henry, Watt, Ohm, Coulomb, Kelvin, Gauss, Weber and Jansky.

The posthumous casting of Nikola Tesla's face is the last exhibit, and next to it is the quotation of the American inventor E. Armstrong: "The World, I think, will wait a long time for Nikola Tesla's equal in achievement and imagination."

Second Floor

The whole intellectual inheritance of Tesla is situated on the second floor of the building. It includes his manuscripts and drawings, correspondence with over 6,700 different persons, books and the valuable clippings from periodicals and newspapers that published articles about Tesla or about scientific and technical problems in which he was interested.

The first Nikola Tesla Museum Catalog of Documents with Commentaries was produced under the guidance of Professor Veljko Korac, Director of the Nikola Tesla Museum from 1952 until 1980 with the help of professors and younger staff from the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Museum staff. On the whole around 150,000 of the approximately 160,000 existing documents were registered. At times there are electrical and mechanical engineers working in the Museum and also external experts with part-time or occasional engagement. Since 1990 these external experts have been involved in the preparation of additional material for publication and in the development of a new Nikola Tesla Museum Catalog of Documents, presently in the form of a searchable computer database.

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