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Bosnia's Historical Museum has closed its doors to visitors and researchers, citing growing debts as uncertainty over its funding continues.
The museum in central Sarajevo closed on Wednesday because of debts and a lack of funds for basic operating costs, museum director Muhiba Kaljanac confirmed to Balkan Insight.
The decision comes one week after the National Museum of Bosnia announced that it would shut down because of funding issues. The Art Gallery of Bosnia closed its doors last year.
At the heart of the funding troubles is the unresolved issue of which government agency is responsible for financing Bosnia's cultural institutions.
Kaljanac explained that the historical museum simply didn't have adequate funding to continue.
“Our staff have not received their past five salaries,” said Kaljanac, “but some of us will continue to come to work and watch over of the priceless holdings.
According to the director, the institution needs some €250,000 a year to function, while its current debt stands at €75,000.
The director said there is also excessive humidity inside the museum which could endanger holdings, but they do not have the capacity to solve the problem.
The core reason for the financial difficulties of Bosnia's museums is the uncertainty about which level of government is in charge of the long-term financing of cultural institutions.
“The priority is solving the legal status of cultural institutions,” Kaljanac told Balkan Insight, “and when that is solved then the funding issue would be solved too.”
After the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, seven of the most important cultural institutions in the country, including museums and galleries, lost the status of 'state institution' that they held before the war.
After the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in 1995, the country was divided into two autonomous entities, Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The government never established a new legal and funding status for the country’s cultural institutions and it is unclear which agency is responsible for funding them.
Cultural institutions have been financed from a variety of budgets during the last 16 years, including the cantonal and entity ministries of culture and the State Ministry of Civil Affairs. There is still no ministry of culture at the state level.
Since 2006, a yearly grant of 1.5 million euros from the State Ministry of Civil Affairs -which covered the seven main cultural insitutions -has been divided among roughly 60 institutions.
Of the total amount, the seven main institutions get around half the funding, which they say is not nearly enough.
The Historical Museum is among the most important of the seven institutions, and includes a large collection of hundreds of thousands of documents, photographies, art pieces and other valuable and many rare museum holdings collected after 1945.
Donors spent hundreds of thousands of euro building a new museum in Gjirokastra - but the results were questionable and it ultimately closed over an ideological dispute.
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