Museum history

Trakai History Museum

The Trakai History Museum is located in three medieval architectural monuments of Lithuania: the Island and the Peninsula castles of Trakai and the Medininkai Castle, located in the settlement of the same name some 30 kilometres to the southeast of Vilnius. The administration of the museum is based in the Trakai Peninsula Castle, in the renovated building of the former Dominican monastery (Kęstucio Str. 4).

MUSEUM DIRECTOR is Alvyga Zmejevskienė
MUSEUM FOUNDER is the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.

Since the establishment of the museum in 1948, it has accumulated a rich collection of valuable exhibits: archaeological artefacts, numismatic evidence, manuscripts and rare publications, works of old artisans and artists, as well as other items reflecting both Lithuania’s and the world history.

The museum has permanent exhibitions as well as organises temporary displays at all the above-mentioned locations; it has published a great number of catalogues and articles about the exhibits that are held in the collection; the museum staff participate in scientific conferences and seminars, organise festivals and other events as well as arrange training seminars for guides from the travel agencies.

Trakai History Museum is a consultant to the Trakai Vytautas Magnus High School Museum, the Aukštadvaris School Museum, and the Lithuanian Road Museum in the town of Vievis.

Initially, the Trakai museum was established as a regional museum in the premises of the present Karaim ethnographic exhibition on Karaimų Str. 22. The first permanent exhibition of the museum was opened there at the end of 1952. The museum intensified its work in 1955, when a historian N. Kovrigina was appointed a director of the museum. The first exhibits for the museum’s permanent exhibition were collected during archaeological excavation works in the territory of the Trakai castles and the town of Trakai. However, a systematic, consistent museum research work and collection of exhibits began only in 1959, after I. Misiūnienė took over the administration of the museum (she kept the position till 1992). Under her initiative and management, the museum staff carried out regular ethnographic expeditions and archaeological excavations in the surroundings of Trakai. The exhibits collected during these expeditions enriched the museum’s collection; they were preserved and restored. In 1961, the restored central palace of the Island Castle was rendered to the museum, and a new permanent exhibition opened there in 1962. The museum was reorganised from regional into historical.

The administration of the museum remained in the building on Karaimų Str. 22. In 1967, the first Karaim ethnographic exhibition was opened there. In 1997, on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the settlement of Karaims and Tatars in Lithuania, the display was renewed.

From 1969 till 1989, Trakai History Museum had a branch with an exhibition in Kernavė, the first capital of ancient Lithuania; however, the branch was reorganised into separate museum. The ruins of the Medininkai Casle belonged to the museum from 1969 till 1974 and were finally transferred to Trakai History Museum in 2004.
In 1985, Trakai History Museum received the premises of the former Dominican monastery, located in the territory of the Peninsula Castle. In 1990, the monastery building was restored; the museum storage facility, its library, restoration department, administration and staff moved there. In 2005, the exhibition of Liturgical Art was opened in the restored chapel of the former monastery.

In 1992, the restoration of western casemates of the Trakai Island Casle was concluded and new exhibition halls opened there.

In 1993, V. Poviliūnas was appointed the director of Trakai History Museum. The scientific, cultural, educational activities of the museum further expanded. In 1994, Trakai History Museum joined and became an active member of the Association of Castles and Museums around the Baltic Sea. Cooperation agreements have been signed with the Museum of Warmia and Mozury in Olsztyn (Poland), Museum in Brodnica (Poland), the Malbork Castle Museum (Poland), the Rheine Museum (Germany), Rakvere Museum (Estonia), the Swabian Castle Museum in Bari (Italy), Museum of Ethnography in Lviv (Ukraine).

In the period between 2008 and 2009, permanent exhibition halls of the Island Castle were fully renewed. The Trakai History Museum with the collection of about 300,000 exhibits is one of the largest and most visited museums in Lithuania at present. The museum organises living history festivals in all three historical locations – the Island Castle, the Peninsula Castle, and the Medininkai Castle. Programmes, including tournaments of knights, competitions of archers, ancient crafts demonstrations, medieval cuisine degustation, and other medieval attractions are very popular both among local and foreign visitors.

Trakai Island Castle, located in the picturesque scenery of Lake Galvė, is often visited by official delegations from foreign countries. The castle museum was honoured by the visit of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden together with Queen Silvia, the presidents of Hungary, Estonia, Greece, Kazakhstan, China, Latvia, Poland, Macedonia, Portugal, Ukraine and Uzbekistan; prime ministers, ministers, ambassadors of many countries have visited Trakai History Museum and the Island Castle. Several state treaties were signed in the Great Hall of the Island Castle.