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The Brukenthal National Museum, on the left, and city hall on the right (image via Flickr/luci_abrudan)

In what seems like yet another depressing story of government cuts affecting arts institutions worldwide, the Brukenthal National Museum in Sibiu, Romania, is apparently operating on a shoestring, with no gas, spotty heating, and each office lit by a single bulb.

The entrance to the palace (click to enlarge) (image via brukenthalmuseum.ro)

The museum’s headquarters is the former palace of Samuel von Brukenthal, an 18th-century governor of Transylvania. Brukenthal established the first collections around 1790, and they were opened to the public in 1817, the first of their kind in Romania. Today, the Brukenthal National Museum actually houses six museums dispersed throughout the city: the art galleries and library, both housed in the Brukenthal Palace; the Museum of History and the Museum of Pharmacology, located in two different 16-century buildings; the Museum of Natural History, which began in the late 19th century; and the Museum of Arms and Hunting Trophies, a later addition from the 20th century.

Inside the Brukenthal Palace (image via thisisromania.com)

With limited news reports on the situation in English, it’s hard to tell how much the crisis affects all of the different locations. But they are unified under the umbrella and administration of the Brukenthal National Museum, which, according to the Bucharest Herald, is the entity facing a lack of funds. As a result, Director Sabin Luca has closed the ground floor of the palace and an exhibition at the history museum. He told the paper:

We are forced to take some measures in order to avoid being corrupt or spoiling Romania’s budget balances. And honestly it’s no joke that this is life. One light bulb per office will be in use at the Brukenthal National Museum. The gas is out. The heating has stopped four days ago even though the law has some regulations, a certain temperature should be registered for three consecutive days before shutting them down. We can’t help it because we are already in the hole, owing RON 150,000 in back payments.

The Brukenthal Palace at night (click to enlarge) (image via thisisromania.com)

“According to him,” the paper adds, “for March the museum received RON 21,000 from the Culture Ministry, while the museum needed approximately ten times as much, namely RON 204,000.” The Culture Ministry, on the other hand, claims that it has allocated more money and resolved the crisis, and has asked Luca to resign. He told the Herald that he won’t.

It’s not clear who’s to blame here, or who can really fix the situation (as one blogger commented, “where is the Mayor of Sibiu in all this?”). But the photos we’ve assembled here, as well as others, show a gorgeous palace filled with Romanian and other European art spanning across centuries; the deterioration of it would obviously be a big loss to the city and country. Sibiu was also a European Capital of Culture only six years ago, which just goes to show how quickly things can unravel.

Another interior palace shot (image via thisisromania.com)

A courtyard in the Brukenthal Palace (image via Flickr/Jack Zalium)

Another courtyard at the palace (image via Flickr/blog queen)

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

One reply on “Romania’s Oldest Museum in Crisis”

  1. Similar fate has hit a museum in Sarajevo which is just depressing! They claim nothing but the government would save these institutions, but if the government valued the arts it would at least maintain them on a basic level.

    Growing up in Bosnia, there was not much emphasis on the arts or cultivating artistic expression which sadly leaves me to believe that these institutions are doomed.

    What kind of approach do you think would best yield towards a solution?
    http://iwpr.net/report-news/sarajevo-museum-peri

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