I am writing to draw your attention to the crisis of cultural institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and would like to invite you to join the platform CULTURESHUTDOWN.NET, initiated by a group of international academics, artists, librarians and cultural activists seeking solutions for this crisis. Seven of the main national cultural institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- most notably, the National Museum, the National and University Library, and the National Art Gallery in Sarajevo, symbols of the still disputed state of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- are about to be closed down due to a lack of funds. The underlying cause for this crisis is the unresolved ethnic conflict after the 1990s war, and the local government's failure to ensure operations through the clarification of these institutions' legal status and the design of adequate funding mechanisms. Notwithstanding that the functioning and programing these institutions need to be analyzed/revised/developed, the painful result of their current status is that now the most important cultural artifacts from Bosnia-Herzegovina’s past and present are not only to become invisible to locals and visitors alike, but are severely threatened by decay and looting.
The platform CULTURESHUTDOWN.NET connects artists, museologists, librarians, historians, and activists living in Bosnia and across the globe interested in researching, analyzing and intervening in this crisis. Operating on a voluntary basis, CULTURESHUTDOWN.NET is unconnected to a government or political party. Our aim is to raise worldwide awareness about the problem though a variety of instruments and media, ranging from the provision of real-time information online to collaborative art projects and the drafting of cultural policy recommendations.
What we have done so far
- We set up a website that serves as a platform for exchange of news, ideas and reports
- We completed a survey of the status quo, conducting interviews with representatives of the respective institutions; you can read the summary of institutions' problems here
- We contacted over 80 cultural producers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including all ethnic groups and all spheres of public life/institutions that are related to this concern, asking for their critical reflections, which we are currently posting online, as they come in
- We have been translating all relevant news and material from BHS into English, and vice versa, to enable a better communication among people interested in this concern worldwide
- Publicize the crisis and our platform internationally, though both academic networks/publications and mass media
- Issue a public call "Ideas for Solutions", creating a collective document that would summarize results of the call
- Try to impose pressure on Bosnian Parliamentary Assembly to take on this concern into their agenda (so far, the local politics' strategy was to completely ignore this problem, or provide temporary funding solutions that helped them survive for a few months), though political channels of EU and USA
- Fundraise and commission experts' reports: 1. A legal analysis of the Bosnian Constitution and the Dayton Peace Accord in regard to the cultural policy in BH; 2. A comparative study/analysis of funding structures of national museums, galleries, archives and libraries worldwide; 3. International trends in programing of national institutions, such as museums, galleries, archives
- Start drafting policy recommendations that can be useful for Bosnian politicians in resolving the crisis
- Write a text that we can post online, reacting either on the situation of these institutions in Bosnia with a site-specific critical reflection, or a more general text highlighting the role and importance of culture and cultural institutions more broadly
- Send us your ideas on how this crisis could be revolved
- Send us tips about fundraising, if you know any sources that could help us cover the operational costs of our platform (translations, website admin, commissioned reports, etc.) and short-term funding sources that could help remedy the crisis
- Connect us / recommend us to your eventual links in the political circles of the EU and the USA
- If you have/know of a project / a class / an article related that can be helpful for finding solutions to this crisis, please share it with us
- Join our list of supporters, by sending us your portrait that we can post on the list of supporters and contributors
- Help us raise awareness about this concern, by forwarding this email to your colleagues and academic networks
I attach our Press Release at the end of this email, which will give you more information about the problem and its background.