Established in 1888, the National Museum is the oldest contemporary cultural and scientific Western-style institution in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The initative to establish the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina was launched by a group of scientists and intellectuals in mid-19th century, but the process was halted partly due to historic and political turmoil in the country - as Bosnia and Herzegovina saw the change of government and the Ottoman Empire was replaced by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
Austro-Hungarians brought with them new political and social goals, customs and values, which included furthering of science through research and academic and institutional development.
Calls for European literacy levels and more widespread education eventually resulted in decision to take concrete measures designed to bring about the long-awaited establishment of a Provincial Museum, which would be later transformed into the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Advisor to the provincial government Kosta Hörmann was appointed as the first Director of the museum.
The original museum facilities in the Sarajevo downtown soon became inadequate for the growing collection. In 1913, the museum building was expanded by Czech architect Karel Pařík who designed a structure of four symmetric pavilions with a facade in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, and a botanic garden. The four pavilions contain the departments of archaeology, ethnology, natural history, and a library.
The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in Zmaja od Bosne 3 Street. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 1000 to 1900 hrs, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 1000 to 1400 hrs.
The Museum offers exhibitions and collections that encompass several scientific and scholarly disciplines: history, geography, archeology, ethnology, history of art, biology, geology, paleontology and mineralogy.
The three main departments of the museum are the Archeology Department, Ethnology Department and the Natural Sciences Department. The museum also has a library with up to 162,000 volumes.
The Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated manuscript and the oldest Sephardic Jewish document in the world issued in Barcelona around 1350, containing the traditional Jewish Haggadah, is kept at the museum.
During the war in the early 1990s, four buildings of the museum complex and the botanic garden were destroyed. The museum has been slowly reconstructing the buildings through the years.