Workers Pressure Government to Reopen Landmark Bosnia National Museum

Dedicated museum workers safeguarded the collection for three years.

Employees at Bosnia National Museum are preparing for the reopening of the institution, known as the British Museum of the Balkans, on September 15 after almost three years after it was forced to close as funding dried up.

The 127-year-old museum, which is a remnant of the Austro-Hungarian empire, survived two world wars and the bloody ethnic conflict that struck the Balkans between 1992 and 1995.

A group of dedicated former employees and volunteers have been maintaining the museum’s collection without pay since its closure, as they feared that its rare and priceless holdings could fall victim to looting and be lost forever.

With 4 million items in its collection, the National Museum is Bosnia’s largest and most prestigious institution.

Empty display cases in the archeology section of the Bosnian National Museum. Photo: Amanda Rivkin via National Geographic

Empty display cases in the archeology section of the Bosnian National Museum.
Photo: Amanda Rivkin via National Geographic

The museum also houses a one-of-a-kind library comprising over 250,000 volumes. It features rare manuscripts such as the Sarajevo Haggadah, a rare 14th century Sephardic Jewish document that survived the Spanish inquisition, the Holocaust, and the Bosnian war

However Bosnia’s weak central government—which presides over two semi-autonomous regions split along ethnic lines—couldn’t keep the museum doors open because the Muslim, Serb and Croat ethnic groups couldn’t agree on a budget to pay for museums and other institutions.

“This museum tells a story which is not in the interest of our political elites, who pursue division,” one of the volunteers, art historian Ines Tanovic-Sijercic told Haaretz. “It tells a story of a joint life and great diversities that existed in this region for thousands of years.”

The museum is located in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. Photo: Thomas Alboth

The museum is located in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
Photo: Thomas Alboth

Over the past month, volunteers and former museum workers formed a pressure group called “I am the Museum” to protect the country’s national heritage. As membership went up as high as 1,500 people, the government finally felt compelled to act.

“Curators, repairmen, cleaners; we are all busy today with cleaning and preparing showcases for the opening next week,” said Ana Maric, a curator at the archaeology department.

According to Museum director Adnan Busuladzic, the historic institution requires $800,000 a year to run. Bosnian art lovers are hoping that the government will deliver on their pledge to keep the institution open.

Related stories:

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Biennial in Tito’s Nuclear Bunker Continues to Go Strong

Muslim Artist Carves Chair for Pope Francis’s Visit to Bosnia


Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share

Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In