The idea of establishing a Croatian Museum of Physical Culture briefly came to life when the Institute for Physical Culture began its process of transformation into the Higher School for Physical Culture in 1959. At the time, plans for the institution’s new building included a dedicated space for a museum. At a session of the Coordination Committee of the Croatian Sports Federation and Croatian Partisan Organization, held in 1961, the question of a need to establish a Museum for Physical Culture was raised. Subsequently, the Propaganda Commission of the Croatian Sports Federation received instructions to begin working on the establishment of a Museum of Physical Culture of Croatia.
Funds were allocated for the employment of an official to gather and systematically organize items for this museum, a series of organizational acts were devised by the Higher School for Physical Culture and there were even discussions of potential members of the Museum Council. The Propaganda Commission of the Croatian Sports Federation even sent out a call to various sports organizations and individuals within the sphere of sports, asking them to aid in the gathering of materials.
In spite of these efforts, the Museum did not come to life. Construction of the future home of the Higher School for Physical Culture was hit by delays and so the idea of a museum died quietly.
The need for a Croatian Museum of Physical Culture is raised once again in 1965, when the Propaganda Commission of the Federation of Croatian Physical Culture Organization, successor to the earlier Croatian Sports Federation, founded the Initiative Committee for the establishment of a Croatian Museum of Physical Culture. Soon after it was established, the Initiative Committee, led by its President prof. dr. sc. Živko Radan, at the time the Chair of the Department for the History of Sports at the Higher School for Physical Culture, organized a series of meetings wih athletes and sports officials seeking to ascertain the existence and ownership of various items of importance to sports history. A year later, the Initiative Committee changes its name, renaming itself into the Commission for the History of Physical Culture of the Federation of Croatian Physical Culture Organizations. As parts of the Commission’s efforts, it began publishing scientific magazine titled “History of Sports” and efforts continue to gather items for the museum, even if the museum was not, at this time, formally established.
The final completion of the building which today houses the Faculty of Kinesiology of the University of Zagreb in 1973, an institution that began its existence as the Institute for Physical Culture, did include a space meant for exhibitions by the Croatian Museum of Physical Culture. It was in that room, occupying a scant 84 square meters, that, on November 24th 1977, the authors Živko Radan, Milivoj Radović, Ivan Kaleb and Viktor Šetina put up an exhibition on the history of Croatian sports. At the time, the authors considered this exhibition a permanent exhibition of future Museum of Physical Culture of Croatia.
It was the result of these efforts that the Museum Council of Croatia, on December 3rd 1979, decreed that the Museum of Physical Culture of Croatia be entered into the list of Croatian museums, even if it formally was not established yet. It would be on May 15th 1980 that the Council of the Faculty for Physical Culture, the modern Faculty of Kinesiology of the University of Zagreb, established the Museum of Physical Culture of Croatia as a separate organizational unit, naming prof. dr. sc. Živko Radan as its first Director. It is from this date that the modern Croatian Sports Museum traces its existence.
Management of the Museum falls in 1984 upon the shoulders of Zdenko Jajčević. At the time, the Museum’s focus lay with attempting to gather as much as it could, as well as find an adequate space for the Museum which was at the time still located in that 84 square meter room in the Faculty building. It would be through the efforts of the Commission for the History of Sports of the Federation of Croatian Physical Culture Organizations that the Museum would move to a new address in Ilica street No 7 in 1988, where it would stay until June 1998 when it would move to Ilica street No 13 when seized property was returned to its original owners following the fall of communism. The new space encompassed a total space of 120 square meters.
The establishment of the Republic of Croatia as an independent nation saw the museum change its name into the Croatian Sports Museum, though it formally remained part of the Faculty for Physical Culture of the University of Zagreb. Efforts to establish the Museum fully would bear fruit in 2003 when, on October 23rd 2003, the Government of the Republic of Croatia enacted the Act Establishing the Croatian Sports Museum. This act, published in Croatia’s official gazette number 171/03, entered into force on November 5th 2003. The Croatian Sports Museum took over all items, properties, rights and employees of the organization unit of the Faculty of Kinesiology of the University of Zagreb with the Faculty’s assent given on January 25th 2003.
On the day it was established as a separate institution, the Croatian Sports Museum had a total of three employees. Zdenko Jajčević, who had previously run the museum while it was part of the Faculty, was named its first Director. Serving alongside him were Đurđica Bojanić, Museum Advisor, and Zrinko Grgić, Librarian.
Although the Museum was not successful in opening a permanent exhibition, the tireless work of its employees nevertheless secured improved conditions for the Museum. In 2009, the Croatian Sports Museum moved to its current home in Prague Street No 2, where a space encompassing 427 square meters contains the Collections that bear witness to the development of modern sports in Croatia from their beginnings in the second half of the 19th century until today.
The Museum’s move to Prague Street was among the last acts of the institution’s long-time Director Zdenko Jajčević. He was succeeded by Đurđica Bojanić, his long-time colleague, who continued to care for the collections and who continued the long struggle to see the Croatian Sports Museum open its doors to the public. She would retire in December of 2017 and was succeeded as Director by Danira Nakić Bilić.
It was in 2018 that the Croatian Sports Museum finally secured an additional space in Ilica Street No 13, encompassing some 500 square meters, with which it could finally begin the long process of opening its doors to the public. In December of 2019, the Croatian Museum Council formally approved of the proposed concept for a permanent exhibition of the Croatian Sports Museum, allowing it to begin working on a permanent exhibition that would be available to the public.