'Pure Architecture' and Anti-Facist Revolution: The Case of the Historical Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Selma Harrington
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

The Historical Museum/ previously the Museum of Revolution in Sarajevo, was built to commemorate the anti-fascist national-liberation movement in WW2. Centrally located, in the so called Museum Quadrant, this building, once dubbed as a "pure architecture", in reference to the key international Modernists, is now a faded, damaged and scarred structure. It operates with negligible institutional patronage but with determined enthusiasm of its small staff.

As an institution of public memory, the Museum has strong associations with architecture, not only because it resides in one of the finest buildings of the regional Modernism, but also due to its conscious effort to see architecture and architects as allies in its struggle for the continued function and mission. Procured in an open competition based on the winning design by a group of Zagreb architects in late 1950s, on the edge of the modernist masterplan for the new city centre, the architecture of the building is now used as the scene and a backdrop for facilitation of the diverse narratives that preoccupy the country, the city and its international visitors.

The original monument of the ‘people's revolution' the Museum seeks to shape the fragile nation's identity once again as a ‘people's museum'. With the older collection of artefacts, military equipment and artwork of partisan's and worker's movement, its current permanent exhibition features the fractured artefacts of life during the siege of Sarajevo in 1990s. This reminder of momentous and also contested public traumas is in many ways symbolic to the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country whose sense of cultural belonging had been shattered and reshaped a number of times in its history.