Fatima Maslić: On the Travnik Heritage Museum, one of the champions in cultural events in this town

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Transcript of the podcast:

Travnik is one of those cities that can fully bear the name of the city – a museum. For such towns in BiH, I can often say that, for example, if they were in Switzerland, they could live only off tourism. That is why I was particularly glad to talk to Fatima Maslić, the director of the Travnik Heritage Museum, and the art historian, because I learned from this talk that this city is close to reaching this level.

Namely, this institution has over 80,000 exhibits, distributed in several exhibits and exposed in multiple locations. Apart from keeping and exhibiting it, they do a lot of activities and are the champions of cultural events in the city.

The story of how they restored the Old City in 15 years thanks to its own engagement and projects is yet another proof of how much can be done when people are devoted to their work. Exhibitions that the museum has in its offer, art performances, documentary films and many other interesting and innovative activities not only attract tourists alike, but can also be an example to others how it can and should be done.

That feeling when you enter Travnik and you can hardly walk from the liveliness and the crowd so unthinkable in many other places in Bosnia and Herzegovina is certainly credited to them to a significant extent.  That’s why this visit will remain one of those that taught me the most, and the first in a series of many that will follow, because I simply want to see as much as Travnik has to offer.

Fatima Maslić:

The Travnik Heritage Museum was founded in 1950. Since 1975, it was in this building that used to be the Public Health Centre and was built in 1929. The Travnik Heritage Museum has several collections. One part was created in late 19th century when the Archbishopric Grand Gymnasium became operational in Travnik. In their classrooms, natural history, archaeological and other collections were set up. This natural history collection is very important. In addition to having this scientific nature, it has a historical value because it has been collected more than 100 years ago. All exhibits are in very good condition, and it is also significant because it was collected by professor and priest Erik Brandis, who came to Travnik to establish that gymnasium. He was practically in charge of its construction.

In addition to this natural history collection, there is a significant archaeological, ethnological, cultural-historical collections and a gallery. We also have a very valuable scientific library of some 11,000 units. Also a valuable photo section, and we have some 80,000 exhibits from all these collections.

Part of this is presented in permanent exhibitions here in the museum building, in the home of Ivo Andrić, which is also an annex to the Museum, and in the Old Town, in the reconstructed tower we have two permanent exhibitions – a cultural and historical documentary and ethnographic exhibition.

Some 15 or 20 years ago, the fortress of the Old Town was closed. Even before the war, there were some activities on its restoration, but it was all rather limited in scope, and the entire fortress could not be put into some tourist purpose, back in 80s when I started working.

However, immediately after the war it was completely shut down for it was in a very bad and ruinous state and then we started some activity. First, it was an action “I Want to Save the Old City” where we invited the local community. Then we started applying for all public calls and in 2005 the Old Town was declared a national monument. We then appealed to the public invitation of the European Commission Delegation to promote tourism development. Then we packed the reconstruction of two buildings, barucks and towers into a program of tourist and cultural info punk development. It was the initiator of everything that would happen later in the Old Town.

We have renewed these two buildings, set up permanent exhibitions, got the equipment, and then started the event. In addition, every year, we were addressing the public calls of the federal ministries and we got the funds so that through some 10 phases in these 15 years the Old Town has been completely restored and it is one of the most significant tourist attractions.

Tourist tour “Travnička hronika” with costume curator and actor

In recent years, we’ve also developed other offerings. In the home of Ivo Andric we have programmes that promote the literary work of Ivo Andrić, especially the Travnik’s Chronicle. In that sense, we’ve made a tourist round with a costume curator and actor who guide tourists from the Blue Water or the Lutvina coffee, where the Travnik’s Chronicle begins, through some sites to the Old Town, then the House of Hafizadić’s family, the former site of Vezir’s inn, all the way to the museum and back pass the Lutvina’s caffee next to the Blue Water where the Travnik’s Chronicle ends. It all includes interpretation and reading of some entries from the Travnik’s Chronicle. That’s very interesting.

Then we have staged a piece “Everything I have is from Bosnia”, where through several documentaries filmed by the museum, which begins with one documentary film we made in 2010 on “Paths, Faces, Landscapes” that was shot in a photo-safari taking place in Travnik, Sarajevo and Višegrad, in places where Andrić spent his childhood, youth and where he was educated. We did a documentary film and it was in fact the initiator of that performance staged by one of our graduate actors in several stage costumes. He presents himself through documentary films and through this performance actually shows Andrić’s relation toward Bosnia. Audience loves it and it’s very interesting. Right now we are with him on guest tour in 5 cities in BiH.

Equally interesting is the play that we are doing in the Old Town, the ambience show “The Nobel Prize Winner and Travnik”, on Andrić and his contacts with Travnik.

What are your plans for the future?

One thing we have in prospects is to expand. A decision has already been made and the project design agreed to extend the museum to the premises of the former fire brigade. It’s an adjacent building. The ground floor would house a gallery collection thanks to a wonderful collection we got few years ago. It is called “The Travnik Collection”, as a legacy of Asim Dželilović, a professor from the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, originally from Travnik. He gave us a collection of 50 works of art by renowned Bosnian and Herzegovinian artists, mostly professors from the academy. This collection is practically in the depot. We have no place to exhibit it since we don’t have an exhibition area.

It is also very important for us in future prospects to make adequate space for the depots because all that we have is now practically in a space where you cannot have the adequate microclimate and it is more of a warehouse than a real museum depot. We’d also like to start a restoration workshop. Unfortunately we don’t have that yet. We have no staff, no room, no resources. But if there was staff, then we would go with the restoration of the workshop.

In your opinion, how to keep youth in BiH?

You have to awaken their interest to act. They first need to come out of this monotonous world that surrounds them and keeps feeding that with information on lack of prospects here, that everyone is leaving, etc. The rule is for everybody to find their little niche and some interest. There are also very important cultural institutions, such as the Youth Education Centre, etc. They simply need to connect young people through topics of their interest and gradually introduce them to some of the activities that are important and can become self-sustainable. Young people should feel that they’ll make progress in the social field, cultural, and so on.

Every socially-owned institution in community work should focus its efforts on working with young people as much as possible in its programmes. We’re really developing this from one year to another through archaeological workshops for example, then for the Museum Days we organise work with young people, some quizzes, we go to fieldwork and meet them with different values ​​… I believe education is very important and that by setting your example, you show young people that you can create something out of nothing.

Wool as a raw material for tourist souvenirs

Because indeed in these areas in BiH there is so much potential that it is unbelievable. We recently went to a field trip close to Travnik, the Bila valley, you have a beautiful lake there, the Jesenica river. Then close by again you have a wonderful waterfall, the Kozica River etc. And when we went to Kozica, we came across a group of people from the village of Višnjeva, washing wool on some natural lakes in the same way as it was once done with traditional tools and cooking in a pot. Then we were surprised because we know that now everyone is throwing the wool away, wool is not a much-used material. Then they said, “Well, no, we no longer throw the wool away; we wash it, spin it, make socks, blankets and sell everything in Fis store in Vlašić, because tourism is the driving force and bringing progress.

P.S. If you are interested in Travnik’s tourist offer, I recommend you visit muzejtravnik.ba to see all that they have to offer.

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