Nikola Tesla Comes Home: Visit to ‘Mind from the Future’ Exhibition in Zagreb

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The amazing mind of one Nikola Tesla is featured in a new global exhibition which kicked off in Zagreb last month. TCN took a closer look at Nikola Tesla ‘Mind from the Future’ on December 24, 2017.

One of the many paradoxes of life in The Beautiful Croatia is that, for some reason, some of its greatest assets are hardly promoted or celebrated. This is a fantastic country, which has made a significant contribution to the world through its inventions, and yet those inventors are scarcely celebrated. Consider this clever play on the official tourist slogan, Croatia, Full of Life:

Your Life is Full of Croatia. Everyday things in everyday lives, thanks to inventions which came from Croatia. 

And yet, it is really quite hard to celebrate some of these fantastic inventions in the homeland of the genius minds who gave so much to the world. How hard, expensive and popular would it be to come up with the Museum of Croatian Innovation and Invention?

Perhaps my favourite image of the huge missed opportunity that Croatia should be taking advantage of is the picture below, taken during the 2016 Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally, officially the quietest rally in the world.


As a marketing image of a cool, innovative, eco-friendly tourist country, this is hard to beat. In the background, the birthplace of one Nikola Tesla in the village of Smiljan, whose mind and inventions changed the world. In front of the statue of the great man, the first car ever to be exported by a Croatian car manufacturer, for a cool one million dollars, the electric supercar, Rimac Concept One, which has taken the auto world by storm (just don’t let Richard Hammond drive). The occasion was the international NIkola Tesla Rally, which took in several of Croatia’s stunning historic stone towns and national parks (yes, this is a country where 10% of the land is given over to nature and national parks). Cool, innovative, eco-friendly Croatia? It is all here. 

And yet… 

Where is the Croatian Museum of Innovation, to celebrate the genius of Tesla, the invention of the pen, cravat, parachute and several other things? Yes, they exist in part in the localities where the inventors lived, but this is a huge potential marketing and tourism opportunity for Croatia which is being sadly missed. At least in the opinion of this fat British correspondent.

And then I heard that a major Tesla exhibition was coming to Zagreb…  


Nikola Tesla ‘Mind from the Future’ opened at the Mestrovic Pavillion in Zagreb on November 25 and will run until March 20 next year. It is the first in a world tour, taking in the most important cities to host the genius during his remarkable live, with future hosts being Budapest, Prague, Paris and New York, with the exhibition finishing in Dubai for reasons I have yet to determine (lazy research). 

I liked the fact that it was hosted in the Mestrovic Pavillion, named after the sculpting genius who became a great friend of Tesla after they met in New York in 1939. Mestrovic’s bust of Tesla is one of the first things to greet the visitor. 

Christmas is a time for family and relaxing at home, but our extended family Christmas party all showed interest in the Tesla exhibition, and so it was that a group of nine, aged from 9 years old to something considerably older, headed to the exibition on Christmas Eve. If the exhibition could entertain five kids of varying ages and four adults, then it would be a success indeed.  


You can read about the people and concept behind the exhibition in an earlier article we did, as I want to focus now on the experience. The first piece of advice – make sure you take the free audio guide, which is available in Croatian and English, a true treasure trove of information and tidbits,which far exceed the standard information about Nikola Tesla and his work. And be prepared for an extended stay in the museum – listening to each and every segment takes around two hours. Two hours of fine detail and entertaining storytelling in parts. I can’t imagine doing the exhibition without the audio guide as some did, there really is such a wealth of information contained therein,all separated into sections which corresponded to the numbered exhibits.  


Overall, I thought the exhibition was excellent and extremely informative. If I had one criticism (and bear in mind the younger element of our crew), it was that the exhibition took a little time to ‘get going’. Later on, there were some fascinating interactive attractions for all ages, whereas the initial bit was a lot more static – but full of information.  

One of the early things that struck me was the impact that nature had on the young Tesla mind – this photograph of Niagara Falls in his local school triggered amazing and well-documented things in years to come. 


But it was the nature of the Lika region where Tesla grew up which provided a more immediate and practical inspiration. Nature which is today still relatively untouched and unvisited by tourists (Plitvice Lakes apart). Nature which today has such tourism potential with the Tesla story… It was here, for example, that young Tesla’s first invention came to be, a rotary engine powered by insects stuck to a paper wheel.  


And it was here that Tesla first became fascinated by electric phenomena, after an electric shock from contact with his cat in the snow one winter. 


Beautiful, colourful nature, Croatian-style.


Tesla’s life was a game of two halves – life in various cities in Europe before the big move to New York and a much more high profile life, and I liked the way the exhibition dissected the two, with a simple passage flanked by windows of a steamer on the high seas. Life was about to get a lot more interesting.  


A tour of life in New York and the ghettos where many of the thousands of new immigrants were given a rude awakening of the realities of life at the bottom of the pile in America.  


And joy for the kids, as the exhibition moved on from primarily audio narrative to a much more interactive second half.  


Young minds were stimulated by the Tesla genius and had fun exploring the more visual and hands on exhibits.  


And although we did not quite have enough time for the more fun bits at the end, as the information from the beginning had been a lot more comprehensive than anticipated, the younger members of our party were having a LOT of fun with the interactive multimedia aspects at the back end of the exhibition.   


Centre stage was a giant structure of Tesla, which must have been at least 10 metres tall, dominating the ground floor and easily rising to the first. 


And some wonderful hologram souvenir photos to finish.  


An intense and information-rich two hours was had by all (I would say three hours is needed to do the exhibition justice), and although the kids were naturally ready to leave after two hours, I was surprised at their staying power and level of interest. A better spacing of the interactive elements, so that this aspect is introduced earlier in the exhibition, would certainly help, as would a shortened option of the audio highlights for visitors with less time. But those were minor gripes in what was a very successful visit overall. 

One of the many things I liked about the exhibition was the lengths it went to to place the work of Tesla in historical context, with stories and explanations of important events and innovations of the time. It was also incredible to me that Tesla managed to meet and connect with so many influential people from all over the world, this in an age before the Internet and other means of modern communications. His connectivity a century ago is the envy of many today – he truly was a mind from the future. 

Go and see this exhibition. It will inspire and affect people in different ways, but it is worth it to pay homage to a man who made a magnificent and selfless contribution to the world. 

Learn more about Nikola Tesla ‘Mind from the Future’ on the official website.  



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