The Nikola Tesla museum is housed in a residential villa built in 1927 according to the 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 in 1949 and arrived in Belgrade as a result of efforts by Sava Kosanovic (KGB agent, codename "KOLO", see American Espionage and Project Venona) and his attorney Wittenberg. It is often claimed that this was "Dr. Tesla's wish", however, no legal instrument or documentation in Tesla's own writing has ever been found to substantiate this, nor has the museum ever let an independent, unbiased researcher to verify these records. It is significant that it is out of standard archival practice that Nikola 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. To contrast, Tesla spent only 31 hours of his entire life in Serbia. Over the past 50 years, a great deal of his paper have suffered water damage from neglect, leading many historians to consider it a great disservice to Tesla that his trunks ever left New York. With renewed worldwide interest in Dr. Tesla's work's access is expected to be forthcoming, however, it is certain that many original documents have been lost, stolen, censored, uncataloged, or damaged.
Nikola Tesla Museum is a unique institution of science and culture in Serbia and in the world. It is the only museum in the world which preserves the original and personal inheritance of Nikola Tesla. The director of the Museum is Vladimir Jelenković.
The permanent exhibition was arranged in 1955. From time to time there were some modifications, but 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 work or life.
“Tesla's everyday life”
The Nikola Tesla Museum has prepared an exhibition called “Tesla's everyday life” that contains a collection of textiles and various things used in everyday life in order to celebrate the 150th birthday of Nikola Tesla in Belgrade in 2006.
The Nikola Tesla Museum is currently under reconstruction. The reconstruction on the building started November 3, 2006 and the first phase of the project will be complete by the end of 2006. The garden on the roof of the museum will be closed from the outside by glass windows, which will turn the roof into a computer room.
The museum is divided into 7 separate rooms, with different themes, exponents, photographs and even the ashes of Nikola Tesla.
Room 1 - Nikola Tesla: a man and a creator
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, Crookes, Kelvin, Röntgen, Millican, Popov, Pupin, Lee de Forest, Compton, Kennelly, Armstrong, etc.
Room 2 - Personal things and correspondence
Some small things from Tesla's personal effects are selected to depict his exceptional 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 the abundant correspondence with his 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.
The photographs of Tesla's closest relatives - father Milutin, sisters Marica, Angelina and Milka, uncle Nikola and grand-grandfather Toma are displayed in a separate show-case.
The documents on his death and burial in New York in 1943 are exposed in the last show-case.
Room 3 - Urn with Tesla's ashes
In the third room of the Museum, in the gold-plated sphere on the marble pedestal is the urn with Tesla's ashes. After death Tesla was cremated and the urn was transferred to Belgrade in 1957.
Room 4 - "Fairy tale on electricity"
Tesla's fairy tale on 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
Room 5 - The polyphase system and its application
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 World Exhibition in Chicago, Tesla had presented his witty model of the induction motor with egg-shaped rotor. 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.
The patents of Nikola Tesla laid the foundation for the construction of new generators of polyphase currents. It has also been witnessed by the plaque of one of the generators of the hydro-power plant at Niagara Falls (1899), placed next to the model of the hydro-energetic system. The date of bringing the first generators in this power plant into service marks the date of the beginning of 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 of Nikola Tesla.
The story about Tesla's inventions is continued with the paddle-less turbine, pump and speed indicator constructed 1913 - 1916 on the same principle. Tesla had occupied himself more than twenty years trying to improve them, and it was not until the end of 20th century that these inventions began attracting attention and comprehension among scientists and engineers.
Room 6 - The Cordless Tesla Transformer
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 laboratory in New York and later at Colorado Springs. The results of these experiments are even today inspiring for researchers in the whole world, especially after Nikola Tesla Museum has published his "Colorado Springs Notes".
In the contemporary world [such oscillators and] high-frequency currents are being applied in radio engineering, industry and medicine, in accordance with Tesla's farsighted anticipation.
The high-frequency oscillator coupled with a great transformer is placed in the middle of the room. It was built in 1955, in accordance with the technical descriptions from Colorado Springs. Its potential reaches roughly 200 000 volts and for half a century impresses visitors and fascinates 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 the contemporary fluorescent illumination. These experiments are not sufficiently known even among specialists. Likewise it is also unknown that W. 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 energy. The model of four resonant circuits displays the results which laid the foundations of wireless transmissions. Next to the model is the quotation from the verdict of the U.S. Supreme Court of 1943, granting the inventions of Nikola Tesla in this field precedence over those of G. Marconi.
Room 7 - Remote control and awards
The investigations and results of Nikola Tesla in the field of remote control are displayed with the reconstructed working model of a small boat. Such a boat he used in his experiments in 1898 in New York to demonstrate the possibilities of wireless control of moving of mechanical devices (vehicles, boats, etc.).
Anticipating with his inventions and experiments in this field, the development of remote control, Tesla was much ahead of his time. The large-scale photograph of his "World wireless station" at Long Island near New York depicts his intention to construct a transmitting station for particular purposes. According to his conception, that station built in 1900 was planned to transmit not only news but also music and photographs. However, this great plan remained 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, Amper, Faraday, Kelvin, etc.
The death-mask of Nikola Tesla 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."