Two planks of wood with the writing 'zatvoreno', or closed are blocking access to the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, marking the shutdown of the most important cultural institution in Bosnia, founded in 1888. The institution was closed due to lack of state funding.
The closure, which has raised protests and statements of solidarity for the museum's employees, mostly from members of the cultural world, was announced yesterday morning at 11 am but was delayed by a group of youths who chained themselves to the door of the museum. The protest was followed by a demonstration of about one thousand university students in front of the museum.
The first museum complex of the Balkans whose four 100-year-old buildings stand around a botanical garden, the institution preserves the famous Haggadah of Sarajevo, a precious 13th century Hebrew manuscript. The museum is one of seven national cultural institutions with no status since the end of the war in Bosnia (1992-95) and no ensured public funding.
One of the institutions, the national gallery, also closed a year ago due to lack of funding.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided into two entities under the Dayton peace agreement, the Federation of BiH (with a Croatian Muslim majority) and the Republika Srpska (RS, with a Serbian majority), and has no central culture ministry, which is opposed mostly by Bosnian Serbs.
Supported after the war by the Federation and the Canton of Sarajevo with increasingly less funding, the national museum had already closed once last winter because it could not pay for the heating. It opened again when the weather got warmer but has not been paying its employees for six months now.
The museum's curators and restorers will monitor collections, said director Muhamed Busuladzic, but the closure could be long as a solution to the lack of funding appears far.