Culture ministry seeks LVL 5 million for Occupation Museum expansion

Latvia’s Ministry of Culture has proposed a nearly LVL 5 million plan to complete renovation of and expand The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, as well as to develop a memorial to victims of the Soviet era.

Under the plan, submitted July 5 to the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Finance is asked to allocate LVL 4.96 million from 2015-2017 to support work on the museum and the memorial. In addition, the plan seeks LVL 53,271 per year from 2015-2034 to help maintain the museum.

The museum was founded in 1993. It tells the story of the country’s occupation from 1940-1991 by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

The downtown Rīga building, which during the Soviet era was the Latvian Red Riflemen’s Museum, is now owned by the state government. Next to the building is Riflemen’s Square, featuring a massive statue of three soldiers. The museum’s board of directors several years ago approved the expansion, called “Nākotnes Nams,” as well as development of the memorial to victims of communism.

Designed already in 2001 by Latvian-American architect Gunnars Birkerts, the expansion calls for doubling the space of the museum.

However, progress on the expansion has stalled because of both legal and financial issues. Museum officials at one time expected the work to be completed by 2010, but Latvia’s economic crisis dashed those hopes. According to the museum’s website and the Ministry of Culture’s proposal, the reconstruction and expansion should be completed by 2014, when Rīga will be one of two European culture capitals. In addition, Latvia in 2015 will take over the presidency of the European Union, meaning Rīga will be in the international spotlight.

The Ministry of Culture’s proposal seeks funding to focus first on renovation of the existing museum building, including such aspects as renovation of the facade, and reconstruction of the plumbing and drainage system. Total cost of the renovation is expected to be LVL 648,495. The renovation work would be completed by October 2012, according the Ministry of Culture’s proposal.

The “Nākotnes Nams” expansion would be finished by December 2013 at a cost of more than LVL 3.2 million.

The memorial—based on a design by artist Kristaps Ģelzis, architect Ilze Miķelsone and sound engineer Voldemārs Johansons—is to be located on Riflemen’s Square. Under the Ministry of Culture’s proposal, it would cost LVL 2.5 million and also would be completed by December 2013.

Beyond funding from the government, the renovation and expansion project is relying on private donations to the museum.

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