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The National Museum of Lithuania

History, Culture, Art

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The National Museum of Lithuania comprises a variety of museums important to preserving Lithuanian history, heritage, and art. Many are found easily in the city center and can be visited as a part of a one-day tour of Vilnius or as a way to gain deeper understanding of the city, country, and culture.

The New Arsenal

The New Arsenal is the building under Gediminas Castle Tower that boasts the sign “National Museum of Lithuania.” It is guarded by a statue of King Mindaugas, Lithuania’s first and only official king. The bottom floor of this museum consists of collections of items from Lithuanian statehood, as well as some truly esoteric additions, including an Egyptian sarcophagus. The upper story contains a very good ethnographic exhibition with Lithuanian traditional clothing, folk art, and recreated houses of rural Lithuanians from the past. Information plaques often state the obvious without providing information to indicate the object’s relevance to the collection or importance to history.

The Old Arsenal

The Old Arsenal appropriately contains an archaeological museum. Here you’ll see prehistoric artifacts that show the development of the tribes that occupied the territory of Lithuania before it was a state. The exhibits are clearly labeled in English and in Lithuanian. This museum isn’t large, and it won’t take more than an hour to peruse, but you’re guaranteed to learn something during your visit.

Gediminas Castle Tower

Gediminas Castle Tower is Vilnius’ crowning glory. This symbol of Lithuania, with its yellow, green, and red flag flying high over Old Town, is also a museum. Either take the funicular via the yard behind the Old Arsenal, or walk around to the park on the south side of the complex to find where you can climb to the top of the hill on foot. Entrance into the tower is 5 litas. Inside are models of the castle complex as they looked centuries ago. You can also climb to the top f the tower for views of the Old Town Vilnius.

The House of Signatories

The House of Signatories, on Pilies gatve, is easily recognized by its dual Lithuanian flags flying outside its lower balcony. Here is where, on February 16, 1918, the act to restore the independence of Lithuania was signed. The history of Lithuania’s national revival movement is traced within the walls of this museum.

Kazys Varnelis House Museum

The Kazys Varnelis House Museum, open by appointment only, is an interesting exhibition of the artist’s own work along with his personal collection of art and antiques from around the world and various eras in history. Varnelis was famous for his optical art, which utilized repeating designed to fool the eye, and he left his collection to be enjoyed by residents and visitors to Vilnius.

Birthplace of Dr. Jonas Basanavicius

Jonas Basanavicius was a famous member of the national revival movement and a signatory of the act to restore independence. The home of his birth, a farmhouse in the village of Ožkabaliai, which was then a part of Poland.

Dr. Vincas Kudirka Museum

Lithuania experienced a ban on the press between 1864 and 1899. This museum, in Naumiestis, educates about this period of media oppression and shows how Lithuanians continued to publish work in their own language despite potential consequences. Kudirka was a physician and poet, and, as a member of the national rebirth movement, he was the author of the Lithuanian national anthem. A square named for Kudirkas, with a statue of the national hero, is situated just off of Gediminas Prospect in Vilnius. Memorial Homestead of Dr. Jonas Sliupas Another member of the national rebirth movement, Jonas Sliupas was an activist, writer, publicist, editor, teacher, and physician. This house-museum is dedicated to Sliupas’ life and works.

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