National Museum in Sarajevo (c) dadoel

The National Museum in Sarajevo reopens

Nicola Sullivan, 24.09.2015
Institution closed since 2012 because of funding problems
The National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo has reopened following a three-year agreement to finance it.
 
The museum, which opened its doors on 15 September, and six other cultural institutions in Sarajevo will receive funding from a number of government sources until the end of 2018. It has also been agreed that the legal status of the museum will be clarified, allowing for a permanent funding arrangement to be put in place.

“The museum’s reopening marks a significant moment for the city and for the whole region. The museum holds artefacts from across the Balkans,” said Amila Lagumdžija, the programmes and partnerships manager at the British Council.
 
“The funding agreement is a signal of a willingness to reinvest in culture. This is a cultural, political and economic statement.”
 
But the institution is not able to just rely on government funding, and has received substantial support from the American government agency USAID. It is also looking for assistance from the wider international community. To this end the British Council is creating links between the museum and institutions in the UK that it could collaborate with.

The agreement follows the campaign 'I am the museum' instigated by the Action for Culture group. This saw artists and members of the public guard the museum and its collections and put on a series of cultural events to raise awareness.

In 2014, Action for Culture raised concerns about the welfare of the people looking after the artefacts that remained inside the closed museum, which had no heating and unreliable electricity and water sources.
 
A statement from the group said: “What we witnessed was a deep humanitarian crisis among workers – no salaries, no health or social insurance and bad working conditions.”

It then set about changing the public image of the institution, which was sometimes criticised for being badly managed.

"[These views] failed to recognise the real causes of the problems – the unresolved legal and financial crisis,” said the statement.
 
The National Museum, which focuses on archaeology, ethnology and natural history, closed in 2012, after 124 years, as a result of crippling funding shortfalls and a lack of political consensus on how to celebrate the heritage it preserved.

The museum will also start repairing and examining artefacts from institutions in the region as it did before it was closed in 2012.
 

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