Interview with the Deputy Director of the National Museum of B&H
Interviewed by Ms Aida Hadžimusić, August 2012
1. Dear Ms Filipović, from previous interviews with Mr. Busuladžić I understood that the major problem of the museum is unsolved legal status. Museum is „no man’s land“; neither government, nor federal institution. Could you provide me with some more information about this issue?
Museum was founded in 1888 as Austro-Hungarian government institution. At the time of Yugoslavian kingdom the same status was confirmed by an official document, namely, museum was further proclaimed to be a government institution. The same happened with Independent State of Croatia, as well as Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina have not yet given an official document that would confirm museums legal status. It nevertheless behaves like a „bad step mother“to this institution. That is a main problem. Since 1995 the Parliament was not able to define its attitude and clearly say if Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a museum or not. Supposedly, old regulations should be applied, but they are neglected. Neither Parliament nor Council of Ministers responded our demands. Since Dayton Agreement did not regulate the question of culture, they forwarded this question to Ministry of Civil Affairs. However, there are 19 sectors altogether in this ministry and only one is to be culture. Ministry is financed with money that should be used for all 19 sectors. Institutions apply for a grant every year. Last year was experienced difficulty in financing as there was no efficient government and it was shortage of funding. This year’s grant is restricted only to 300.000 KM.
2. Are there any possibilities that museum independently gathers funds in some other ways?
Museum gets very small amount of money from selling tickets and rental of facilities, but that amount is too small to cover overhead costs. Currently only 50% of required positions are fulfilled.
3. From earlier interviews I understood that museum received most of donations from the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Several other institutions are mentioned on museums webpage, for example UNESCO or Cultural Heritage without Borders. How did museum invest these funds and how important they were?
There were many donations, for example for restoration (form Swedish SIDA or Cultural Heritage without Borders). Museum regularly provides information on which restoration works need to be done. Based on that information, Ministry of Civil Affairs award directly construction companies to execute required restorations.
4. For how long is Mr. Busuladžić museum’s director? How did situation look like before him and did he, as a museum director, do any significant improvements?
Mr Busuladžić is director for three years and he encountered similar condition. Some donations have been received, but one man cannot do much.
5. I am aware of all obstacles you mentioned. Global financial problems are not something one man can influence much, even as a director of such important institution like a National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But what did Mr Busuladžić do or strived to do to improve the condition of this institution? Which institutions did he address asking for support? How did he try to gather donations for the museum?
Mr. Busuladžić and museum workers regularly apply for grants. We are always trying to carry out some projects.
6. Mr. Busuladžić once said that it was not about great projects, but about museum’s survival. Did media attention from since winter this year bring any significant changes, at least awareness about these problems?
7. Great projects must have been pushed aside in this situation. Is there however a wish to carry out any?
Yes, there is. Last year there were no funds. The only amount of money was gathered from tickets and it was used for an exhibition about the first museum curator Ćiro Truhelka. “Equidae and hoofed animals” exhibition was renewed. It is also important to mention that there was a donation from Emerik Blum, who donated a great collection to Natural History Department. Ministry of Tourism gave funds for restoration and conservation. We apply for grants regularly and receive funds from Canton Ministry and Federal Ministry.
8. If museum would receive a great amount of funds, how would museum workers invest that money, after salaries and overhead costs are paid?
It is a very naive question. Project funds are always intended for projects, restoration etc. There is no one who would give funds for 63 salaries.
9. Several activities are mentioned on museums official web page, such as museum, scientific, educational and publishing. It is well known that museum was very successful in all these activities before the war. How does it look like now?
Museum has all these activities, but less than before the war. There are publications; last year archaeological journal was published, as well as natural history journal two years ago. Ethnological journal is being prepared for publishing. It can happen, however, that consulting editor delay publishing, because they hold papers for 2 years sometimes without any explanation.
10. Can you tell me something about museums educational activities?
There are many examples, such as visiting of the museum by public or special groups. Workshops are organised for people with sight disabilities. National museum has some activities in schools within Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Museum is being popularized by lectures in small towns and villages for those who are not able to visit it. One visit was organised for children within Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and trip and meal costs were covered for them. Special exhibition with audio guides was organised for children with sight disabilities.
11. Are seminars lectures and other way of informing with participation of specialist organised in the museum?
Yes, there are sometimes congresses. However, costs are the greatest problem, because advertising is very expensive.
12. Is it possible for museum to rent facilities, sell souvenirs etc?
Yes, but that amount of money is insignificant and cannot cover salaries and overhead costs. There is always interest for renting of museum facilities, for example botanic garden which is “live exhibition”. It is being rented, but it is always a great risk. Renting of the museum facilities is always risky.
13. The collaboration with goldsmith’s shop Sofić is very well known. Could it be more similar projects?
The similar projects are always possible. Souvenirs are regularly being sold. However, only 1/4 of the revenue goes to the museum. It is very hard to sell a souvenir that costs 100 KM in Bosnia and Herzegovina. If we sell a souvenir that costs 2 KM, museum gets only 0.5 KM.
14. Could museum rent its facilities for concerts or performances? Sarajevo can neither be compared to Paris or London, nor can National museum be compared to Louvre or National Gallery, but there is still a list of activities that one museum can do to promote itself.
A ball was organised at the museum, but that event was too complicated. We have to rearrange furniture and cabinets and we damage our furniture and floor throughout. We have to hire minimum 20 people for that. For that reason, the ball does not pay off to organisers. It did not bring benefits as much as they expected. Museums architecture is not suitable for that.
15. Is it possible to exhibit collection from museums depot, with special marketing treatment and ticket prices?
No. Our society is not interested in such things. Entrance to museum costs 5 KM for adults and 2 KM for students and children. We cannot charge two tickets when special exhibition is in question.
16. Museum suffers from labour shortage. Why does not museum invite archaeology, history and art history students to volunteer? It would be a significant help for museum considering enthusiasm and brain storming of young people! It would also be an excellent reference for students.
There is a regulation which says that meal and travel costs have to be paid for volunteers. That is why we are not able to invite students to volunteer. Anyway, we had some pedagogy students that volunteered on our exhibitions. Archaeology students always assist in archaeological excavations.
17. Could students volunteer if they give up money for meal and travel costs?
We could surely organise something like that. However, we do not collaborate with departments at Faculty of Philosophy, but we still wanted students to work in a museum. I am not sure if regulation I mentioned has changed. We have had master and PhD students from France, Italy, Czech Republic, and Sweden by now. We surely need volunteers and it does bring mutual benefits, but we do not have experts to train students. Museum does not have pedagogic activities at the time being. Three men are required to train only one student.
18. Museum web page has been same for years. Why museum does not engage students to post news, information, texts, and exhibits of the day, week or month for example?
We are not satisfied with our web page. It is up to supporting server. We have many problems with internet access. We have neither internet access nor phone lines in each room, even though it was promised to us long time ago.
19. Thank you. I have one final question. One thing remains quite unclear. Last winter you said that museum is closing to public, but there are always visitor around. Is museum officially closed or opened to public?
Museum is opened to public. We said that we will deprive other users of our services.