History of Molėtai Museum

The name of Molėtai Museum was registered in 1991, June 21st. It all happened just after the collapse of USSR, and the idea of recovering what was lost during the Soviet period was very special.

Rumors of museum necessity started spreading even earlier, when the well-known ceramist professor V. Miknevičius literally saved the architectural symbol of Molėtai – remarkable red brick building – Jewish Merchant House. There were times, when it was decided to destroy the building as an interference with other construction works. V. Miknevičius had an idea of Lithuanian Ceramics, or Clay, Museum. To this day there is no such museum, and there never was another museum in said building, but the Jewish Merchant House is still here and nowadays corresponds to its original purpose.

Later, when the old Cultural Office building was being renovated, a second floor was added, and new spaces became available. It was decided to set up a museum there.

The Museum of Molėtai was finally opened on July 6th, 1997.

The first exhibit to be recorded in inventory books was a children’s book from 1937.

At first, a collection of exhibits was bought from Č. Stankevičius. It was a difficult time, we had to consult with various experts, learn a lot, save money, deal with the blockade, recover losses, move and clean things, think and create strategies, etc. Local libraries were being optimized and reorganized, cultural offices and schools closed, and money-saving fever hit everyone hard, even the healthcare facilities. Giving birth to a museum was a very difficult task under such circumstances. People working at the Cultural Office sometimes viewed the museum as “an invader”, who took half of their building, and some people considered a museum unnecessary.

All departments of the Museum emerged naturally. R. Budrys, a legendary director of Lithuanian Art Museum, used to say that a museum is a living and growing organism. Alanta Manor Museum-Gallery came to life after Museum of Molėtai befriended E. Satkūnaitė, the founder of Alanta Manor Museum. The Fishing Museum was found by V. Mackonienė, Ethnographical Hut by an astronomer G. Kakaras, and the Gallery in Molėtai by D. Cibauskaitė. With very little financial help from the authorities and great efforts from people working at the museum, we were able to find our niche in the local and Lithuanian cultural context. Now we have all these fantastic places to visit, among them a remarkable modernized Fishing Museum in Mindūnai, Glass Museum in Balninkai, and a thriving Ethnographical Hut in Kulionys.

During the lifetime of Molėtai Museum, more than 30 000 exhibits have been collected. Large part of them is coming from archeological sites in our region. Another big part is literature or other written language. Sometimes we are happy to receive very valuable exhibits – one of them is an oldest television set in Lithuania, created and constructed by A. Umbrasas. Other important exhibits were donated by professor V. Kaušinis, musician and folk artist Jonas Matulionis, etc. Every exhibit, just like every person, has its own life and stories to tell. We are always very proud to cooperate with elders of our region, since their stories are the most important.

Some of the oldest exhibits are a cross from Arnionys church, a wooden chair, a tub, and a few decorative pieces. It seemed like a miracle, when K. Strazdas donated his collection of Lithuanian glasswork. Ancient boats and fishing devices are well taken care of at the Fishing Museum in Mindūnai, and a great Giedraičiai family collection is being gathered in Videniškiai.

One of the most famous Lithuanian hunters, A. Truskauskas’ hunting trophy collection happened to take up its residence in Mindūnai, V. Žukas’ paintings and T. Matulionis Collection got to Alanta, all thanks to the former mayor of Molėtai, Stasys Žvinys.