Interview with successful Amina Krvavac, War Childhood Museum’s Executive Director

For the past three years, Ms. Amina Krvavac has been actively involved in the project that have culminated in the creation and opening of the War Childhood Museum. Initially, she joined the team as a Researcher and as of January 2017 took on the role of the Museum’s Executive Director. Considering that both her past personal experiences and professional interests intersect or rather coincide with the core values of the Museum, her involvement with it happened rather organically.

While obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the International University of Sarajevo, I have developed a particular interest in children’s rights. By the end of her undergraduate studies she was pretty certain that this is the field she would like to specialise in, so she pursued further education and obtained Master’s degree in Children’s Rights at the University of Geneva.

“I really enjoy working at the Museum whose rapid expansion constantly provides new challenges and opportunities for learning. “

ST:War Childhood Museum is different than other museums worldwide in many ways. One of them is that this is a museum that documents experience of ones who did not have any influence on the war. Can you enumerate and explain other differences?

“The War Childhood Museum is the world’s first museum to focus exclusively on childhoods that have been affected by war. “

The Museum’s growing collection contains thousands of personal items and accompanying stories and over hundred hours of oral history interviews of survivors narrating their wartime childhood experiences. Each and every personal story from the Museum’s collection speaks about different aspect of war-affected childhood and such a way contribute to better understanding of this social phenomena. Through its exhibiting and educational activities, the Museum seeks to go beyond promotion of common portrayals of war-affected children as victims to show that their experiences are more complex and multi-layered.

In addition, the Museum also serves as a platform for all those whose childhoods were or still are affected by war to share and exchange their stories.

“We strongly believe in the idea that sharing and exchange of lived experiences enhances mutual understanding, and therefore contributes greatly to the reconciliation processes and substantial changes in the society.”

Due to its innovative approach to peacebuilding and reconciliation, the Museum has already been (in the first year of its operation) recognized by many as a globally relevant institution.

ST: War Childhood Museum is the only museum in the world that keeps Memories of Childhood during the War! Each of the exhibits is a story for itself. Can you tell us two most interesting stories that were told in the Museum or can be understood from the objects?

Every personal object and story from the Museum’s collection is equally valuable as each and every one of them speaks about different aspect of war-affected childhood, and as such contributes to better understanding of this complex experience. There are stories that speak about the resilience, creativity, and capability of children to cope well with difficult situations, as well as stories about personal loss, wounding or other traumatic experience.

For instance, a story that speaks strongly about the resilience of children is a story of a young girl who was determined to become a prima ballerina of a city under the siege. Even though it was extremely risky, due to shelling and sniper fire, to attend ballet classes, this and many other girls who shared her dream kept going every day. Or a story behind teddy bear Meho that is currently exhibited at the Museum’s:

This handmade teddy bear was made by a young girl from the scraps of some old bathrobe during her stay at one of the refugee camps. It illustrates her resilience and creativity.

One of the most prestigious awards in the museum industry, “European Museum of the Year” award arrived to Sarajevo thanks to the War Childhood Museum. What this exactly means for the museum? Is it easier to present exhibitions internationally?

“As a part of the European Museum of the Year Award program that is organized and run by the European Museum Forum since 1977, the War Childhood Museum has been awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2018.”

This prestigious Prize is being awarded by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe upon recommendation of the European Museum of the Year Award Judging Panel (consisting of 13 experienced museum professionals from different countries) to museums that promote human rights, democracy and European values, and which at the same time display excellence in all the aspects of their work. The members of the Judging Panel visited the War Childhood Museum on two occasions and found that the Museum meets all the criteria.

“This is how the War Childhood Museum found itself on the list of finalists together with other European museums, such as the Estonian National Museum, London Design Museum etc.”The above-mentioned Committee unanimously voted in favour of the War Childhood Museum.

Receiving such a prestigious award at the end of our first year of operation meant a lot to all of us in the team. It was an important confirmation and acknowledgment that our hard work has been recognized, and that we are on the right track to achieve at least some of our goals.

ST: The youngest Museum of BiH celebrated its first birthday on February 5th this year. Can you tell us more about the mission of War Childhood Museum? How about the activities and achievements in the past year?

The Museum’s first year of operation was extremely dynamic and successful. More than 10 000 people from all around the world visited our permanent exhibition in Sarajevo.

Besides having a permanent exhibition and producing an exhibit on the experience of Syrian child refugees, we are also preparing traveling exhibitions in other locations. Moreover, more than 7000 children have visited our permanent exhibition or participated in workshops which we organized in schools across BiH.

In the first year of operation, the WCM has expanded its activities outside BiH. In cooperation with organizations based in Lebanon that work directly with Syrian child refugees on a daily basis, we’ve started documenting stories of Syrian child refugees living in refugee camps across the country.

Interview by Zejna SY




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