May 3rd, 2021 | 12 mins 22 secs
The Pleven Panorama transports visitors through time, but not space. The huge, hand-painted panorama features the decisive battles of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877–78, fought at this exact spot, which led to Bulgaria’s Liberation. The landscape of Pleven, Bulgaria depicted is exactly what you see outside the building, making it seem like you’re witnessing the battle on an observation point.
Bogomil Stoev is a historian at the Pleven Panorama, which opened in 1977. The opening was timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire’s surrender following the battles and the siege of Pleven. The building itself is etched with the story of the siege and the battles, and because the landscape is filled with the remains of the combattants, this was the only structure allowed to be built on the spot.
In this episode, Stoev describes how the creators of the Pleven Panorama learned from previous panoramas, how the museum contextualizes the history of Bulgaria’s Liberation, and how this museum has become a symbol of the city of Pleven.
November 16th, 2020 | 9 mins 13 secs
bulgaria, museum of humor
Vitosha Mountain, the southern border of Sofia, Bulgaria, is home to about 15 brown bears and one bear museum. According to Dr. Nikola Doykin, fauna expert at the Vitosha Nature Park Directorate, the bear population is stable—that is if humans stay away and protect their habitat. To Doykin and his team, teaching children about the bears is the best way forward, and the Vitosha Bear Museum does just that.
Founded in 2002 by repurposing an abandoned mountain shelter for the Vitosha mountain rangers, the Vitosha Bear Museum provides “useful tips on how to meet a bear.” It’s also sparse: the entire gallery is a single room, and the gallery lighting is powered by a car battery.
In this episode recorded at the museum, Dr. Nikola Doykin describes why the location is so useful for eco education, how groups of schoolchildren react to exhibits, and what the museum plans to do when it installs solar panels.
September 30th, 2019 | 11 mins 30 secs
bulgaria, museum of humor
To the extent that there was a Communist capital of humor in the last half of the 20th century, it was Gabrovo, Bulgaria. Situated in a valley of the Balkan mountains, the city prides itself on its unique brand of self-effacing humor. In 1972, the Museum House of Humor and Satire opened here, and the city celebrated political humor with people in Soviet block countries and even some invited Western guests.
Today, three decades after the collapse of Communism, the Museum House of Humor and Satire remains one of the region's most important cultural landmarks. The museum has had to reinvent itself to interpret not only a democratic Bulgaria, but a the global, meme-driven, and internet-forged culture most visitors live in.
I went to Gabrovo to visit museum director Margarita Dorovska, who describes how the museum's strengths in its early years—like knowing how to present political humor without arousing the interest of the authorities—inform how the museum thinks of its role in the world today.
November 19th, 2018 | 14 mins 8 secs
brian muthaliff, bulgaria, buzludzha, dora ivanova
High in the Balkan mountains, Buzludzha monument is deteriorating. Designed to emphasize the power and modernity of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Buzludzha is now at the center of a debate over how Bulgaria remembers its past.
Architect Brian Muthaliff wants the building to evolve along with Bulgaria. His master’s thesis on Buzludzha describes a re-adaption of the site to subvert the original intention of the architecture, including installing a winery and a theater.
Unlike architect Dora Ivanova’s Buzludzha Project, which we discussed at length in episode 47, Muthaliff’s plan only calls for a single, museum-like space. In this episode, we go in depth on what a museum means and what is the best path forward for this building and for Bulgaria.
October 1st, 2018 | 12 mins 42 secs
bulgaria, yulina mihaylova
The Jewish Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria tells the full story of the Jewish people in Bulgaria from ancient Roman times to today. The museum takes on the complexities of the rescue of the Jews in Bulgaria from deportation to Nazi death camps during the Second World War.
49. Deyana Kostova Centers ‘The Little Man’ in War at the Bulgarian National Museum of Military History
September 3rd, 2018 | 10 mins 13 secs
bulgaria, bulgarian national museum of military history, deyana kostova
The campus of the Bulgarian National Museum of Military History in Sofia is defended on all sides by a garden of missiles and tanks. But as Director of Public relations Deyana Kostova points out, many of the exhibits inside focus on the consequences of war rather than the tools of warfare.
July 23rd, 2018 | 9 mins 59 secs
bulgaria, buzludzha, dora ivanova
High in the Bulgarian mountains, Buzludzha monument is deteriorating.
July 9th, 2018 | 10 mins 1 sec
bulgaria, muzeiko, vessela gercheva
There were no children’s museums in the Balkans before Muzeiko opened in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2015.
June 11th, 2018 | 11 mins 27 secs
bulgaria, bulgarian national polytechnical museum, vassil makarinov
The Bulgarian National Polytechnical Museum is a science museum that also tells the story of Bulgarian and world history.
July 17th, 2017 | 8 mins 6 secs
bulgaria, elitsa terzieva, museum of socialist art, nikolai ushtavaliiski, statues
After the fall of communism in Bulgaria in 1989, statues of Bulgarian communist leaders, idealized revolutionary workers, and Lenins were taken down all over the county. Some of these statues are now in the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia. Bulgaria doesn’t have a history museum that explores its communist past.