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Lovers of the Bosnian National Museum marked its 125th birthday in Sarajevo in a forlorn mood, by laying flowers and lighting candles, as the iconic institution is closed.
Students, artists and citizens of Sarajevo marked the first 125 years of the National Museum was founded on February 1, but the mood was far from celebratory as it has been shut since last year.
“This was supposed to be a day of joy for the National Museum, but there is no joy on its 125th birthday,” Ludina Dzeko, a staff member, said.
As the institution remains closed, all the well wishers could do was light 125 candles and lay 125 roses in front of the main entrance.
Wooden planks were nailed over entrance last October after years of struggle with financial problems finally took their toll.
Although the museum houses some of the country's most important treasures, the management last year announced that they could no longer remain open owing to mounting debts and a lack of money to pay staff salaries.
“We cannot be silent. It's everybody's obligation to work for the museum to open again,” Ibrahim Spahic, director of the cultural festival, the Sarajevo Winter, said.
“It is more important to open the doors of the museum than to have any other cultural event at this moment,” he added.
The main financial problems for the museum, and for half a dozen other key cultural institutions in the country, is lack of agreement over who should pay for them.
While most decisions about money are the responsibility of the country's two autonomous entities, cultural institutions are supposed to come under the care of the state.
But after the 1995 Dayton Accords ended the war in Bosnia and established the two entities, the new legal and funding status of national cultural institutions was never agreed.
As a result, these institutions depend on finance from a variety of budgets, from the state to the entities and further down, to the cantons operating within the largest entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. No Ministry of Culture even exists at state level.
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Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin…