The War Childhood Museum (WCM) is a people’s museum—people’s stories, people’s objects, people’s terms. Some of the objects on display are rare manuscripts people risked their lives to save, while others are chocolate bar wrappers that are still in production. A hundred years ago, how many museums would display chocolate bar wrappers that are still in production? The museum industry is changing with the emergence of story-based and socially conscious museums. The WCM provides a caring home for objects that are significant for those whose childhoods were affected by armed conflict.
The museum today
The museum is located close to the old town on one of the oldest streets in Sarajevo, Logavina Street. When visitors arrive at the museum, one of the first things they will notice is a group of neighbourhood kids playing in front of the building. When the weather is cold, they sometimes do their homework in the museum’s book nook. When visitors walk through the door, they are greeted by one or two members of the Museum staff who have been trained to approach visitors with warmth and sensitivity. As an institution, we are aware that you can never know what a visitor’s previous experiences might have been and how personal this visit might be, so we try to be as mindful of visitors as possible. As a small museum, one of the things we can offer visitors is a personalised experience. The museum staff is available and willing to support visitors in any way they can.
The exhibition space itself is predominantly grey. The only colourful things in the exhibition area are the objects themselves. We try to curate the exhibition in much the same way: though the subject matter is difficult, we try to curate the exhibition so that stories of uncommon kindness and love also have space to breathe. The exhibition is curated so that a diverse set of experiences and emotions are evoked, and all stories given equal weight. Walking through the exhibition hall or main gallery, you can observe couples hugging, people sitting to listen to the video testimonies, and young children taking a specialised tour. In addition, there are often students on school visits or attending educational workshops. Education is an important pillar of the museum’s focus. To make the subject matter more accessible, the WCM hosts educational workshops at schools around the country. Working with thousands of school children every year, the WCM aims to contribute to a greater understanding of the importance of peace.
At the end of the exhibition, some visitors leave in a hurry, some talk to our museum guides, while others sit and rest. Visitors often write in the guest book on their way out. One entry reads: With appreciation, deep humility and love, love, love for this museum but mostly for its subjects, the many other stories untold, and the great people that lived through and turn horror to triumph every day by existing and carrying on. You honor us with your perseverance and serve as a reminder that all can be overcome. Thank you.
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