Bosnia and Herzegovina’s major cultural institutions, including the National Museum, the Art Gallery and the National Film Archive, are in a state of neglect. The State does not support them, because doing so would imply acknowledging the existence of a common cultural and historical heritage. Some, in the capital’s artistic milieu, have suggested privatization.
“In the summers of 2013 and 2014, I spent time photographing, researching, and interviewing staff at several cultural institutions in Sarajevo that were either closed for lack of government funding or that operated under conditions that would be considered impossible anywhere in developed world. I worked in the National Museum (closed, most staff furloughed and, as of June 2013, director and senior curators owed nine months of salary), the National and University Library (operating in a temporary and highly unsuitable location, its holdings decimated by wartime incineration), the Museum of Literature and Performing Arts (in dire need of renovations and proper archival storage) and the Museum of History (open, as of June 2013, staff owed four months of salary). All of them were generously funded by the government when Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of six republics of socialist Yugoslavia. Since the war of 1992-95, the impoverished new government has relied on foreign aid and never developed a coherent plan for ongoing funding of these institutions. As in many “new democracies,” culture, education and health services have been largely gutted due to the pressures on governments to privatize assets and services on the one hand, and the culture of corruption and cronyism on the other. In Bosnia, problems are compounded by the wartime destruction and damage, by the exodus of professionals during the war and by the Kafkaesque governing structures.” A moving photo essay by the artist Tanja Softić