For almost two decades we have been involved in something of a running battle with the vast majority of Bucharest’s sights and museums: a battle for information. When we started the day job Bucharest In Your Pocket back in 1999 finding out such mundane things as entrance prices, opening hours and whether or not a guided tour was available was a trial of patience. Questions only led to more questions. Why did we need this information? What did we intend to do with it? Who would have access to it?
When we replied that we intended to publish the information in a guide book to Bucharest that would be distributed to thousands of foreign visitors who might like to know what time a certain museum closes, we were in many cases politely told to get lost (and in certain other cases simply told to get lost without a hint of politeness). Heaven’s forbid that foreigners have access to this kind of information!
(Then there was the time we called Baneasa Airport to ask for the full internal flight schedule, which before ubiquitous internet access was a key feature of the guide. Judging from the response we got you would have thought we had asked for the most carefully guarded state secrets imaginable).
While it would be dishonest to suggest that things have not improved all that much since then, certain Romanian state institutions remain wholly opposed to releasing any kind of useful information which should be in the public domain, and there are museums amongst them.
We are happy to report however that the Museum of Bucharest (MMB; and its many subsidiary museums) is no longer one of these. As such, this post is in fact a public thank you to the museum’s PR team, which over the past month or so has provided us with a huge amount of material, including print-quality photos. It would appear that the museum has realised that publicising its collections, events and exhibitions is a good thing which might lead to more visitors coming through the doors. It’s not rocket science, but it remains a step too far for a number of Bucharest’s cultural institutions.
Now, a quick word about two of the museums which are part of the MMB: the Nicolae Minovici Museum and the Theodor Aman Museum. Neither is usually on the list of things to do of most visitors to Bucharest, but both are well worth your time. The Theodor Aman Museum (which is on Str. CA Rosetti, and which many visitors pass without even noticing) was built in 1868 as a home and studio by painter Theodor Aman and includes a vast amount of his work: the many murals and frescoes are not the least of these. Founder of the first arts school in Wallachia, Aman had a complex personality, which is reflected in every detail of the house. The exterior decorations are the work of sculptor Karl Storck.
The equally remarkable Nicolae Minovici Museum in Baneasa was only recently reopened after a long period of renovation. It was purpose built in 1906 to serve as the first ethnographic museum in Romania. Minovici, who founded both the first public ambulance service in Bucharest and the city’s first emergency hospital, donated most of the exhibits himself.
And (if you have kids who understand Romanian) note that the MMB also looks after the Bucharest Observatory (pictured at the top of the page), which was itself recently opened after a major refit. Open to allcomers who want to peek at the stars through its telescopes (the times are published here) it also organises astronomical presentations with the genial Adrian Sonka, a scientist who could have been a stand-up comic. These are held most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Details here.