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29 Dec 11

Bosnian National Museum Facing Closure

The National Museum of Bosnia in central Sarajevo is facing closure, drawing attention to the government’s failure to establish a system to fund cultural institutions.

Elvira Jukic
BIRN Sarajevo

The more than 100-year-old National Museum of Bosnia will soon be forced to lock its doors.

Beginning in January, the museum will lack the basic utilities required for its operation. And the current museum staff cannot prevent the institution’s collapse when energy and power sources are shut down due to debts, museum director Adnan Busuladzic said on Wednesday.

“When the collapse begins, we will have to shut the museum down, whether we want to or not,” Busuladzic said. He added that employees would ask the Sarajevo cantonal police to take over security of the museum to protect its priceless holdings from thieves and other damage.

Busuladzic called on all levels of government to prevent the oldest and most important cultural institution from closure due to debts. Museum employees would be left without having received a salary for six months, he said.

At a public conference on Wednesday, a group of artists and professors told hundreds of citizens and journalists gathered inside the National Museum that the problem of cultural institutions in Bosnia is a political. They explained that Bosnia is a country with a nonintellectual political elite that is entirely disinterested in its cultural heritage.

"If the society and the country do not need us, then we should be closed down,” said Busuladzic.

Several other cultural institutions in Bosnia are also facing financial collapse. This is due in part to uncertainty about which level of government is in charge of the long-term financing of cultural institutions.

Prior to the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, all cultural institutions held the status of state institutions. They were also directly financed from the state budget.

But after the Dayton Peace Accord 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.

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 grant of 1.5 million euros -which covered the seven main cultural insitutions -has been divided among roughly 60 institutions. Of that amount, the seven main institutions get around half the funding, which is not nearly enough.

The National Museum is the largest of the seven institutions, and includes four pavilions. It maintains a large collection of archaeology, ethnology, natural history and library holdings.

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