At the 2002 European Museum of the Year awards I described the National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a "demonstration of the indomitable human spirit". Thanks to sheer dedication and spirit of its staff members, the Museum had survived a chaotic decade of conflict and destruction. Located in Sarajevo, the Museum was involved in many military operations over the course of the conflict and suffered significant structural losses from intensive bombing. Despite having no roof or heating the staff continued to stand by their institution, opening the Museum for a Museum Day while the war raged on around it. Scientists, security guards, curators all took turns standing guard outside the Museum during the conflict and thanks to their gallant effort only 10 per cent of the objects in the Museum's collection were damaged.
A cello player in the partially destroyed National Library, Sarajevo during the war in 1992. The cellist is local musician Vedran Smailović, who often came to play for free at different funerals during the siege despite the fact that funerals were often targetted by Serb forces.
Image: Mikhail Evstafiev
Source: CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikipedia.org
In 2013, the Museum is again under threat. Today marks the six month anniversary of the closure of the National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina after 124 years of existence. Despite the Museum housing objects of national and international significance, in 2012 wooden planks were nailed over its doors after political debate regarding the funding of national institutions could not be resolved.
The doors of the closed National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In response, cultural institutions across the world have joined together in order to draw awareness of this crisis by symbolically closing off an object on display for three days culminating in the global Day of Museum Solidarity today. I am very proud that Museum Victoria could take part in this action by symbolically 'taping off' an object on the ground floor of the Immigration Museum. The object being 'taped off' is a model double spiral staircase crafted from Brazilwood by Heinrich Munzel in Brazil between 1835 and 1850. This action is now part of a virtual exhibition showing different institutions' solidarity acts from across the globe including the Museum of Contemporary Arts (NSW), Museum of Modern Art Chicago (USA) and the Oslo Museum (Norway).
To visit the virtual exhibition or find out more about the global Day of Museum Solidarity head over to the Culture Shutdown website.
Taped off Model Staircase by Heinrich Munzel at the Immigration Museum.
Image: Emily Kocaj
Source: Museum Victoria