Kaunas museums | True Lithuania
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Kaunas museums

While Kaunas is Lithuania's second city, a considerable number of top national museums are located there. A lot of them either date to the era Kaunas served as temporary capital of Lithuania (1920-1940) or are otherwise influenced by that period.

Art museums and galleries

All the Kaunas art museums are located in the New Town.

Mykolas Čiurlionis art gallery is the top location to see the works of Lithuania's most famous artist (a symbolist painter and a composer) who has an asteroid and a mountain range in Russia named after him.

A fragment of 'Tale of Kings' by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis.

Mykolas Žilinskas art gallery is the main Lithuanian encyclopedic repository of international art, ranging from Egyptian mummies to modern era. Everything was bequeathed by a Lithuanian-American art collector Mykolas Žilinskas. It's not Louvre but it has a few great underrated artworks.

Museum of Devils presents a unique-in-the-world collection of devil and demon statuettes based on Lithuanian and foreign mythologies collected by painter Antanas Žmuidzinavičius. His own works are exhibited in the next building.

Historical and cultural museums

War museum (New Town) gives information on Lithuanian warfare from the ancient times to recent NATO missions. Underground crypt and surrounding memorials glorify those who created modern Lithuania or died for it.

Sports museum (Old Town) is full of cups and prizes ever won by Lithuanian sportsmen internationally, in Lithuania or Lithuanian diaspora events. It will interest collectors of such items and fans of professional sports but may bore the others. A circus section is available nearby.

Lithuanian top basketball trophies at thes sport museum of Kaunas. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

ab printing house (Suburbs) is an underground (both literally and metaphorically) institution where locals printed illegal press to circumvent Soviet censorship. The location itself is the most intriguing. Prior arrangement is needed to visit as the premises are still owned by the same dissident family.

Kaunas castle (Old Town) is mostly destroyed, but the rebuilt tower has a minor Medieval exhibition.

VII and IX fort museums present the history of Kaunas fortress and (especially) the later usage of these buildings for Soviet and Nazi German imprisonments and extrajudicial killings. IX fort museum is the more throughout and famous one.

9th fort museum of Kaunas. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Kaunas interwar presidency (Old Town) offers temporary exhibitions focusing on the interwar lifestyle of Kaunas city.

Museum of literature is rather empty, explains works of merely a few writers and may be not very interesting to foreigners who are not literature buffs.

Technical museums

A few of the historic museums are also rich in old technics, with old weapons available in War museum and old printing materials exhibited in ab printing house.

A former anti-Soviet activist demonstrates a secretly assembled printing press her family used to create material exposing Soviet injustices (ab Spaustuvė). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Atomic bunker (Kaunas Soviet districts) is a major private collection of KGB surveillance devices, gas masks and other peculiarities of the Cold War, housed in an underground nuclear shelter. Arrangement recommended for visiting.

Aviation museum (Aleksotas) has a couple of aircraft and much information on Lithuanian aviation history (with old pictures) including (of course) the Lituanica flight.

Museum of National musical instruments (Old Town) offers a complete array of ethnic Lithuanian musical instruments (used by folk originally and by "folk orchestras" today). However it is not possible to listen to their sound.

Traditional Lithuanian instruments at the Kaunas folk instrument museum (left-to-right): skrabalai, skudučiai, kanklės, džingulis. Skudučiai are played by a band of people each taking some of the pipes; top skudučiai are amateur-made while the bottom ones are a modern professional v20th-century century kanklės shown here are decorated in patriotic motifs as is now popular. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Retromobile museum (Aleksotas) is a middle-sized garage of restored old vehicles, especially Soviet ones. Prior arrangement needed to visit.

Memorial museums

In the interwar Temporary capital era Kaunas housed all the Lithuanian luminaries of the era and their impressive houses are often open for visitors, offering a glimpse of rather luxurious interwar lifestyle.

Ones most seeping in the local spirit (and not requiring a prior arrangement to visit) are those of opera singer Kipras Petrauskas and composer Juozas Gruodis. Writer Balys Sruoga lived in a rather more plebeian house. Japanese tourists love the Chiyune Sugihara museum dedicated to their consul who helped Jews escape Nazi Germany, but it has less of that authentic "taste of history".

Writer S. Nėris memorial museum in Kaunas. ©Augustinas Žemaitis

All the above memorial museums are located in prestigious Žaliakalnis borough. Interesting homes beyond it are those of writer Salomėja Nėris (self-designed building in the suburbs) and star-priest Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas (apartment near the Old Town church he worked at).

Natural museums

Museum of zoology is the Lithuania's largest repository of taxidermist works as well as beetles and butterflies, both local and foreign

If you prefer live animals, you'd like Kaunas zoo more. Both were started by naturalist Tadas Ivanauskas during interwar period and both seem somewhat shabby today - if one was in similar places in foreign countries and is not particularly fond of them one won't find much of interest.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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