National Museum - Chest of Knowledge, Cultural and Natural Heritage
Author: Adi Operta
“During the wise and considerate reign of His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty Francis Joseph I, under the wise and meritorious administration of Joint Minister of Finance Benjamin Pl. Kallaya de Nagy-Kallo, at his request and generous intention, at the convocation of dr. Julije Pl. Makanac, and under the chairmanship of Kosta Hörmann, the Museum Society in Sarajevo was founded on October 5, 1884 from which this National Museum for Bosnia and Herzegovina developed to preserve and study the historical treasures, intellectual and natural wealth of these countries.
Inaugurated and handed over to the public on February 1, 1888."
This is an inscription standing on a board next to the entrance to the National Museum, for which we can certainly say is the largest museum institution in our country. Not only that, the National Museum is the oldest cultural and scientific institution of the modern type in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The building in which it is located today was built in 1913. according to the project of Karl Paržik, also one of the most important architects of the Austro-Hungarian period. During his almost 60 years long work, numerous facilities were built in Sarajevo with his name attached. Yet many say the National Museum is his most ripe design and most significant edifice. The museum itself was built in the style of the Italian Renaissance and is the first building in the South Slavic area that was purposely built for the needs of museum collections.
When the construction was planned, it was realized that the monumental museum buildings in Central Europe would soon become too small, which is why it was decided to build a pavilion museum complex of the National Museum. The museum consists of the Department of Archeology, the Department of Ethnology and the Department of Natural Sciences. We can almost say that each of them represents separate museums. There are also the Department of the Scientific Library and the Botanical Garden that completes this complex. A strikingly "vivid outdoor collection" in which there are a number of stećak tombstones - unique tombstones from medieval Bosnia and Hum, or Herzegovina. In terms of floor plan, the Botanical Garden is the central part between the four pavilions. Since 1889, exhibits have been collected and supplemented. Today, there are about four million of them, which are evidence of an abundant cultural and natural history of our country.
Upon entering, next to the cash register and souvenir shop, the left and right wings of the building of the Department of Archeology branch off. Unfortunately, the left wing is currently closed. Preparations to open an exhibition related to the prehistory of Bosnia and Herzegovina are in progress. Honestly, we can't wait for this exhibition to open, which will be permanent, but since that part of the building was damaged during the war and due to leaks, it had to be removed. This exhibition was last opened on the museum's centenary, in 1988. So, it has been unavailable for visits for 33 years, and it is known as the largest collection in this department.
However, as the right wing is open, we visited the exhibition "B/H in ancient times". The period of ancient culture is represented by monuments dating from the 1st to the 4th century. In three halls on the first floor is the exhibition "B&H in the Middle Ages". The medieval period began with the migration of peoples in the 5th and 6th centuries, and ended with the fall of these areas under Ottoman rule in the second half of the 15th century. And so we toured the entire department, including the room with the Sarajevo Haggadah.
Naime, Sarajevo Haggadah is a unique example of a Jewish prayer book - a collection of stories and religious rules, which is read during Pesach. There are only 12 haggadahs in the world, and one of them is in our National Museum. What sets it apart from other haggadahs is that it is illustrated, with depictions of the Earth in the shape of a circle already on the first pages. It is supposed to date from the 14th century, and was probably created in Barcelona, as a wedding gift for members of two famous families, Shoshan and Elzar, whose coats of arms are next to the coat of arms of Barcelona. It was brought by Sephardic Jews in the 16th century after persecution from Spain and Portugal. The haggadah survived numerous hardships - from the exodus from Spain and the Inquisition to the last war in our country. It makes us happy that the haggadah is available to the public in a specially secured space and under precisely defined conditions. Therefore, it is possible to hear interesting stories of the haggadah and see it with prior announcement.
In the Botanical Garden there are 21 stećak tombstones brought from various locations such as Ljubuški, Gacko, Čitluk, Foča, Neum, Ljubinja and many others. There are also a number of stećak tombstones in front of the museum. The Botanical Garden can be divided into several groups:
- Schist flora (flora from habitats with the so-called acidic base; such are some mountains like Vranica),
- Serpentinite flora,
- Dolomite flora,
- Limestone mountain flora (such as Trebević),
- The Miljacka valley flora
- A group of succulent plants (meaning succulent plants of our flora, those that thrive in very dry and warm habitats),
- Mountain garden flora (in the higher parts of the mountains, in the bays, where there is a lot of snow and where it stays for a long time, a typical vegetation of high greenery develops, which is called mountain garden),
- A group of wetland and aquatic plants,
- A group of ferns,
- Xerothermic habitats flora (this group includes species of Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean areas),
- Alpinetum (some mountain and high mountain species are grown),
- Arboretum (located on the other side, next to Vilsonovo promenade itself and in my opinion is not sufficiently incorporated for scientific, recreational and tourist purposes)
Today, there are about 1700 species of plants with several thousand individuals, out of which 750 specimens of trees and shrubs.
In the Nature department there is a cross-section of the entire geological past of Bosnia and Herzegovina, after which comes the exhibition of minerals, rocks and water. Then there is the cave fauna and the fauna of mountain streams, the living world of Bosnia and Herzegovina that continues to the forests. Next is an exhibition of mammals, invertebrates, etc. The exhibition of the Nature department is one of the largest in Southeast Europe. It is really worth spending a whole day in a museum, especially in such as the National museum.
Let's preserve our heritage and let's integrate it into tourist flows!