Capital Sarajevo
Time Zone CET (GMT+1)
Country Code 387
Mobile Codes 61,62,63
ccTLD .ba
Currency Bosnian Convertible Mark (1EUR = 1,96 BAM)
Land Area 51,129 sq km
Population 4 million
Language Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian
Major Religion Islam, Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity

The Tourists May Be Keen to Commemorate WWI, but Bosnia’s National Museum Remains Closed, Two Years On

By Lana Pasic editor’s note: the following article, which discusses developments that have occurred in reaction to the closure of Sarajevo’s National Museum two years ago, is a follow-up to the original piece (published on January 29, 2012, here) also by the same author. It indicates the authorities’ continuing low prioritization of important Bosnian cultural heritage, in a significant anniversary year.

This month marks two years since the closure of one of Sarajevo’s landmarks- the National Museum. On 4 October 2012, the museum closed its doors to the public, as the institution was no longer able to pay its bills or the employees’ salaries.

The stalemate that led to the closure occurred after the relevant public institutions were not able to reach a consensus on who should bear the costs of its maintenance. At the same time, we are witnessing the sprouting of shopping malls and oddly-looking buildings in the Museum’s neighbourhood, which in no way tie in with the cultural history of the city.

The museum, founded during the Austro-Hungarian period, houses countless items from the Roman and Medieval times, as well as the important Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish manuscript made in Spain in the mid-1300s. Its botanical garden with Stećci – unique medieval tombstones, remains off-limits.

The closure of the museum inspired a number of campaigns, most notably the Day of Museum Solidarity, which included over 200 institutions on four continents, and used “culture shutdown” solidarity banners. However, campaigns like this one also require long-term funding and support. Otherwise, they cannot be maintained indefinitely.

In recent months, the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sports started paying more attention to the issue, especially since the foreign embassies and institutes have appealed to the government to open the Museum, as a part of the Sarajevo 2014 commemorations. Sadly, the Museum has remained closed during this time, when we have expected most foreign visitors to come to the city, as a part of the WWI centenary.

The Federation has allocated funds in its budget for the salaries of the Museum’s employees, but this is still not enough to cover the maintenance cost. This year, the federal government appointed a temporary Managing Board, whose mandate has now ended, without a definite move forward as to any opening. The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not taken any actions on this since 2013, when the issue was originally referred to them.

The “Museum is closed” boards have finally been removed from its doors this August, on the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Culture, which vows to open the museum by the end of the year. However, with the pre-election campaign in full swing, culture continues to take a back seat, and it is still not clear when and whether this historic landmark is going to open its doors to the public again.