The Jasenovac Memorial Site Memorial Museum was opened in 1968 close to the original site of former Camp III (Brickworks).
The designer of the Memorial Museum building was engineer Petar Vovk, whilst the designer of the interior of the hall was Đuka Kavurić.
The first museum exhibition was mounted by the former Museum of the People’s Revolution of Croatia in Zagreb, according to a concept by Ksenija Dešković.
The Memorial Museum consisted of an exhibition hall and a cinema.
An integral part of the museum exhibition was a sculpture by the academic sculptor Dušan Džamonja entitled “Relief Dedicated to the Victims of Fascism in Jasenovac”, which was placed on the south wall of the exhibition hall.
The Museum exhibition was updated in 1988, when the designers of its concept and contents were Dragoje Lukić and Antun Miletić, and the art designer was Joža Rebernak.
Jasenovac Memorial Site was not spared damage during the Homeland War. When the war broke out in the Republic of Croatia, the museum and archive inventory of the Memorial Museum and the Jasenovac Memorial Site storerooms were packed in cases and prepared for evacuation. As it turned out, this was impossible to carry out on time, as the war events unfolded.
According to a broadcast on Belgrade television on 7 February 1992, at a press conference on the topic of protecting cultural monuments, it was announced that part of the museum inventory had been removed from Jasenovac and taken to Bosanska Dubica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (it was later transferred to the Archives of the Republika Srpska in Banja Luka).
By 1991 Jasenovac Memorial Site had processed and stored 14,237 museum items, whether in the former of collections of documents, photographs, physical objects or works of art, and it also had a rich archive and document fund (sound recordings, photo library, film library, video library, newspaper and journal collection) and a library of around 2,500 titles.
In a report prepared by EU mission observers in May 1994, when an investigation was carried out into the condition of cultural monuments and museums in the occupied territory of the Republic of Croatia, it was stated that the Memorial Museum was completely empty and that no information was available as to the whereabouts of the museum inventory, but that the memorial site and Flower Memorial were undamaged.
The Ministry of Culture and Jasenovac Memorial Site sought the assistance of international institutions in urging the return of the missing museum inventory. Following an agreement between the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, part of the museum and archive inventory belonging to Jasenovac Memorial Site, which was then being kept in the archives in Banja Luke, was sent to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in October 2000 for a period of a year, in order for preservation and restoration work to be carried out, along with cataloguing.
On 5 December 2001 the museum and archive inventory was returned to Jasenovac Memorial Site and revision work on it began. The revision was completed in February 2004 and included both the returned material and material collected during the ongoing activities of Jasenovac Memorial Site between June 1997 and December 2003.
In mid May 1998 the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia appointed a Commission to prepare a provisional museum exhibition. The basic task of the Commission was to prepare a museum exhibition based on the museum, archive and documentary material available. The “Proposal for a Museological Concept for a New Permanent Exhibition in Jasenovac Memorial Museum” was submitted to the Ministry of Culture on 3 December 1999.
The appointment of the Commission meant that work on the museum activities of Jasenovac Memorial Site was intensified, and during the following years several thematic exhibitions were mounted, including “Jasenovac Memorial Site – 1968-1999”, “Prisoner Breakout – April 22 1945” and “Jasenovac Concentration Camp – an exhibition on the beginnings of the camp system – August 1941 to February 1942”.
The new exhibition in the Jasenovac Memorial Site Memorial Museum was formally opened on 27 November 2006.
The designer of the concept and scenario was Nataša Mataušić, the art designer was Leonida Kovač and the architectural elements were created by Helena Paver Njirić.
Since it was impossible to display all the museum and archive material in a space of only 350 m², it was decided to adopt a multimedia approach, i.e. to present the museum inventory using different media, including photographic prints and documents, glass cabinet displays, digital presentations on screens, audio-visual presentations of survivor witness statements, etc.
This method of presentation enabled visitors to the Museum to gain access to more information and allowed considerable more museum items to be presented than would have been possible using traditional displays.
With this aim in mind, a database was created in which 65 topics were chronologically and thematically compiled in detail. An integral part of the database and the new permanent exhibition of the Memorial Museum of Jasenovac Memorial Site is the List of Individual Victims of Jasenovac Concentration Camp. The authors of the database and the List are the curators of Jasenovac Memorial Site, Jelka Smreka and Đorđe Mihovilović.
The renovation of the Memorial museum and the creation of the new museum exhibition, along with the renovation and equipping of the Education Centre of Jasenovac Memorial Site were financed entirely by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia.