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National History Museum of Latvia
The National History Museum of Latvia is the largest repository of Latvian material culture. It was founded in 1896 as the museum of the Science Committee of the Riga Latvian Society. To enable a better understanding of its foundation and aims, we should look back at the situation of Riga more than a century ago.
Up until 1860s Riga was a fortified bastion, with its infrastructural and economic development determined by various military strategies. It was only after these strategies were revoked and the fortifications were dismantled, that this ancient trading town developed into an industrial centre with a multi-national population.
The Latvians who had gained prosperity in Riga learned German and often denied their ethnic roots. It was not easy to identify their compatriots in the city.
The situation changed during the latter half of the 19th century following the abolishment of discriminatory legislation against farmers. Increasing numbers of Latvians came to Riga and their lifestyle changed. Latvian identity and intelligentsia developed, the level of national self-esteem raised, and Latvians found a need for a social organization to enable purposeful gathering and a venue for cultural recreation, exchange of information, furthering knowledge etc.
Following the national declaration of independence in 1918, the Riga Latvian Society transferred the museum collection to the government. In 1920 Museum was provided with rooms in Riga Castle. In 1924 the Museum was granted a national status and a new name - The State Historical Museum. Its function was to: “collect, preserve, exhibit and popularise the ancient and modern cultural heritage which is of significance to the history of Latvia”.
The period from 1920 till 1940 was a prosperous one for the Museum. Exhibitions of archaeology, ethnography, numismatics and religious art were opened. Museum opened branches in other Latvian cities. In 1939 the Museum’s collection contained 150 000 items.
Following the renewal of independence in 1991, the Museum experienced successful transition to the new conditions. It was accredited in 2000 and again in 2004 as complying to State level museum standards. The Museum’s collection comprising around 1 million items is a unique and comprehensive overview of the material and intangible heritage of Latvia and its people.
Museum has established a new permanent exposition covering the period from 8 000 B.C. till 1941. This exposition unites the “open collection” principle with the portrayal of the most important periods in Latvian history. There is a number of temporary exhibitions every year, based on the collections of the Museum.
The Museum is constantly improving its offer to the public. Since 2005 the permanent exposition of the Museum includes special stands for the visually impaired. Special educational programs are offered to pupils.
In March, 2008 Museum Park of Araisi joined to the National History Museum of Latvia. The Museum Park of Araisi is a cultural and historical landmark situated in Cesis region. It consists of reconstructions of buildings of Stone and Bronze Age, a lake castle – settlement of ancient Latgallians in 9th - 11th centuries and ruins of medieval Livonian castle.
In January, 2010 Latvian Culture Museum "Dauderi" was joined to the National History Museum of Latvia and became a department of the National History Museum of Latvia.