On the Road to the Independent State of Lithuania: Years 1863–1918
On display until 15 November 2019: the 16 February Decree on Restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania, found in the Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany. The document will be on display in the House of the Signatories, the same premises where the Lithuanian Act of Independence was signed. This is where the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Society for the Support of War Victims operated at the time. The society was not only one of many societies legally active in 1914–1918 that officially represented the nation, but also a gathering of politicians.
Display “On the Road to the Independent State of Lithuania: Years 1863–1918”
The renewed display uses both classical and new technologies to present Lithuania’s path toward statehood starting with the second part of the 19th c. all the way up to signing the fateful 16 February Act of Independence. Lithuania’s fate at that time depended on the historical interplay between active personalities, civil societies, the Lithuanian nation itself and the whole world. The nation’s political consciousness was developing not only within cultural, charity and educational societies but also in the homes of intellectuals, through writing scientific papers and journalism, discussions, creative work. Visitors will have the opportunity to see Lithuanian publications from 1904–1915, articles of association and other documents of the societies, photographs of the Lithuanian Scientific Society and newspaper offices of that time. Event posters will remind us how keen people were to go to plays, concerts, gala evenings and educational courses.
In the House of the Signatories, we tell the comprehensive story of Lithuanian public life that was not limited to just Vilnius – it was becoming stronger and more varied even in remote towns and villages of Lithuania. During World War I, when Germany occupied the land, the activity of Lithuanian societies became highly constrained. Yet, at that time, nationals both in Lithuania and in exile were convinced that after the war the European map was about to significantly change and this vital opportunity must not be missed. The display presents an interesting and little-studied material on Lithuanian organisations in exile, which shows that their financial and political support had a huge importance for the process of statehood restoration.
The signatories to the Act of Independence of Lithuania can be seen in many of the little-known photographs on display depicting shelters, schools and dormitories of the Lithuanian Society for the Support of War Victims. They highlight the broad spectrum of activities undertaken by these politicians: the same people performed charity work, penned textbooks and taught pupils, organised the Lithuanian Conference and worked in the Lithuanian Council. After closely examining preserved sources, the creators of the display took the effort to recreate the atmosphere of 1917–1918.
All of the signatories of the Act of Independence were talented, wise, persistent, decisive people, many of whom had already made significant achievements before 1918. We hope that the photographs of the Lithuanian Council members along with authentic items, paintings, furniture and documents will make it possible for you to get to know these people better and to feel the extraordinary atmosphere of the time when statehood was being born. Most of the exhibits are from the collections of the Lithuanian National Museum. We are grateful to the relatives of the signatories of the 16 February Act of Independence and the Lithuanian memory institutions who have greatly contributed to the display by gifting, lending or allowing us to copy valuable material.