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NEWS 14 Nov 16

Bosnia Museum Marks Half-Century Amid Rescue Hopes

Sarajevo's Historical Museum, a favourite among tourists to Bosnia, is marking an important anniversary amid fresh hope that decades of neglect may be drawing to an end.

Eleanor Rose
BIRN
Sarajevo
Bosnia's Historical Museum. Photo: Jason Rogers/Wikimedia.

As Bosnia's Historical Museum opens a new exhibition to mark the half-century since it opened, it looks set to finally escape the legal limbo in which it has been consigned for more than 20 years. 

The museum, which was established in Sarajevo in 1945 and opened to the public in November 1966, unveiled a new exhibition on Monday about the destruction of cultural heritage during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

The show is part of its Museum Month program, helping to mark its 50th anniversary and raise awareness of culture in Bosnia generally.

Since the 1992-5 war ended, the museum – along with six other cultural institutions in Bosnia – has existed in a legal no man’s land, since no government body has claimed responsibility for it, nor has it been sold by the state.

This uncertainty has forced the museum to survive on ad-hoc funding for projects, rather than being included in any official budget.

Staff at the museum have kept it running through the years of political and economic neglect, despite such hardships as being unable to heat the building in winter.

The steps and façade of the museum show unrepaired war damage, and its entrance remains pockmarked by bulletholes.

“What we did at the Historical Museum, instead of closing, was to raise awareness and ask citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in Sarajevo, to show support and contribute to taking care of our cultural heritage,” director Elma Hasimbegovic told BIRN.

In July, following a call from the Ministry of Civil Affairs to finally resolve its legal status, the City of Sarajevo pledged to take the museum under its wing, if only on a temporary basis.

According to the Bosnian daily paper Oslobodjenje, which reported that the museum received only about 85,000 euros this year in ad-hoc support, fresh support could arrive as soon as January.

Ramiz Kadic, deputy mayor in charge of culture, sports and education, was quoted last Friday as saying that the city administration hoped to include the museum in its budget for 2017.

The city administration now awaits higher-level approval of its plans. 

Several previous efforts to help the museum have failed. However, Hasimbegovic said she hoped "that the status of the museum can be temporarily solved and the financing can be made more stable”.

Sarajevo’s Historical Museum is a popular tourist attraction despite its financial difficulties.

It has won an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 in reviews posted by tourists on the important travel website Tripadvisor.

“It’s an unusual museum in that it has been a little neglected,” contributor Chris S, from Brighton, England, wrote. “However, it seems from the signs that this is changing, which will be great.”

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