Located in Skanderbeg square, at the very heart of Tirana, the National Museum of History is the largest museum in Albania and home to the country’s greatest historical and cultural heritage. The museum’s prominent position in the square is enhanced by its famous façade, which displays a gigantic socialist realism mosaic, entitled “Shqipëria” (Albania), depicting heroes of the working class. The museum was inaugurated in 1981, following three years of preparation and work for a space which now holds more than 5,000 objects in its well-designed pavilions.
The Pavilion of Antiquity is perhaps the most important one of the museum, where an exhibit of around 400 objects from the Bronze Age begins Albania’s tale and highlights the best of classical art. The undisputed masterpiece in this particular pavilion is a mosaic entitled “The Beauty of Durrës” dating back to the 4th century B.C. An icon of archeology in Albania, this image of a beautiful woman, constructed from multicolored pebble stones of various shapes and sizes, is the oldest mosaic found in the country. Another equally iconic masterpiece of the same period is the “Dea of Butrint” the marble bust of a woman, copies of which are displayed in various locations throughout the country.
Another fascinating part of the museum is the Medieval Pavilion, divided in two halls where a substantial part of Albania’s history and society – the period extending from the 4th to the 15th century – is depicted. Worth mentioning are the Epitaph of Gllavenica from the 14th century, an unbelievably gorgeous silk piece embroidered in gold thread. Other interesting artifacts here include traditionally crafted objects as well as historical Albanian coins and emblems, among others. Moving toward the country’s modern history, the Pavilion of the National Renaissance and the Pavilion of Independence recount the history of the significant period of Albania’s national awakening and that of Albania’s proclamation as a state in 1912.
The most aesthetically pleasing pavilion is perhaps that of Iconography, which displays a collection of 65 richly-hued icons from the most prominent figures of Albanian iconography, among them the famous Onufri, his son Nikolla and Onufër Qiprioti. For those with more ethnographic preferences, the museum also offers over 250 cultural objects from all territories of Albania. The Pavilion of World War II and the period Albanians refer to as the Anti-Fascist War holds more than 200 objects which take the visitor through Albania’s specific journey during this particularly entangled historical period. Last but not least, the most recent pavilion, that of the Communist Genocide, tells of the dark years of the 1944-1991 communist period through its rich collection of more than 130 objects. This beautifully curated museum, which offers the most thorough access to Albanian history, is most definitely worth a look!