A HALF-FORGOTTEN PHENOMENON IN THE CULTURAL HISTORY OF LATVIA: THE KURZEME PROVINCE MUSEUM IN JELGAVA (Piemirsts fenomens Latvijas kulturas vesture: Kurzemes provinces muzejs)
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Museums as purposeful constructions with exhibition halls, collections, restorers' workshops, libraries and office premises have been built since the early 19th century. Three museum buildings were constructed in Latvia in the late 19th - early 20th century. One of them was the Kurzeme Province Museum designed by the architect and first Baltic art historian Wilhelm Neumann and opened in Jelgava (Mitau) in 1898. Neither values collected there nor the museum building itself and the town where it was placed had a lucky fortune. All was lost due to social degradation and violence. The collection was disintegrated during the repatriation of Baltic Germans in 1939 but the building was bombed down at the end of World War II in July and August 1944. The article intends to prompt the history of the museum and to reconstruct its building process, planning and furnishings to re-establish it as a part of the cultural history of Latvia. In the first half of the 19th century the former capital of the Duchy of Courland, previously residence of dukes and landed gentry, saw a rising civil society after its annexation to the Russian Empire. On 23 November 1815 the Kurzeme Literature and Art Society was founded. The Society quickly obtained public support in Jelgava. In 1818 a museum was opened at the Society, initiated by historian Johann Friedrich Recke. The museum was meant to collect everything worth of interest in art, nature and science, and to preserve values giving insight into the civil, political, spiritual and physical life of the country. As interest was growing not just on pre-classical and classical cultural centres, national specificity of each culture increased in importance. So the most diverse evidences and natural history samples from various cultures, including exotic countries, successfully coexisted in the Kurzeme Province Museum. The typical 19th century approach of historicist retrospection, a tendency to collect everything available and interesting, allowed the most different items to coexist. Selection was mostly accidental, not purposeful. Such an attitude is not incompatible with deliberate analysis and systematisation of objects.
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