National Museum of BiH

The idea for the creation of a museum of BiH was initiated by the Bosnian Franciscan, Ivan Franjo Jukić, who wrote in the journal, Bosanski Prijatelj, in 1850: “It is known to all of us that old things in Bosnia – money, seals, and so on – are found and sold to greedy foreigners for a paltry sum. I started collecting such items a few years ago and I ask all Bosnians to buy such pieces for me, wherever they may come across them…. I would like to leave a mark on a Bosnian museum with my collection.”

Forty years passed from the time of this article to the actual founding of the museum. In the meantime, Austro-Hungarian rule had replaced that of the Ottomans and countless treasures from our country were taken away by dubious traders who swarmed in from all sides.   

BiH Museum Society

In 1884, Dr. Julije Makanec, a Zagreb native who came to fill a post in Sarajevo following the Austro-Hungarian occupation, published an appeal in the journal, Bosnische Post, with the aim of providing an impetus for the founding of the BiH Museum Society. The Society was founded in 1885 and, by the following year, it had 400 members.

It was the Zagrebian archeologist, Ćiro Truhelki, who became the first secretary and custodian of the Society in 1886 and who would succeed Constantine Kosta Hoerman as Director of the Museum.

Truhelki is credited with convincing the Austro-Hungarian administrator of BiH, Benjamin Kallay, to change the museum from an independent society to a state institution, which would ensure regular financial support for the museum.

The museum, which was then housed in the Pension Fund building next to Sarajevo Cathedral, first opened its doors at the beginning of 1888.

Initially, the Museum’s collection contained 762 items, but by 1906 it had grown to 44,242 pieces. Construction of a new museum became a priority for the new Austro-Hungarian administrator, Stephan Burián von Rajecz.

Karl Paržik was selected to design the building, as he had also designed the Pension Fund building, among many others. A plot of land in Marijin Dvor, at the western extent of Sarajevo, was chosen for the museum’s location.

Paržik envisioned a complex with four pavilions and a botanical garden in the center. His plans included a northern entrance and the back of the Museum Complex would look out on Kalajeva Promenade (now Wilson’s) and the Miljacka. 

Construction started in 1909 and the new museum officially opened on October 4, 1913.

Temporary closure

Exactly 99 years later, on October 4, 2012, museum administrators and employees put up a sign at the entrance which read, “Closed (Zatvoreno)”, closing the museum’s doors to the public. They did so in protest of the fact that since the end of the war in BiH, the status of this important museum still remained unresolved.

The museum was closed to the public for nearly three years. However, those who were employed there never actually stopped working. While they didn’t receive salaries for those three years, they still came to work every day and took care of the museum’s priceless objects.

Outraged by the fact that the museum had remained closed for so long, citizens and friends of Sarajevo launched an initiative in August and September 2015 called, “I am the Museum”, by which they urged politicians to come up with an agreement that would temporarily allow the National Museum to function normally.

The Museum re-opened to the public on September 15, 2015.