Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago

What did Vilnius look like 200 years ago? We still see the echoes of the past today, but most of Vilnius from that period is lost. In celebration of the city’s 700th anniversary, the Lithuanian National Museum’s Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago project is providing an opportunity to see Vilnius in the past using modern technologies.

When: 10 May – 24 September, 2023

The project is presenting the Lithuanian capital of the last quarter of the 18th century and the second half of the 19th century. The story of its inhabitants evokes history and invites you to get to know the old city directly. This year, residents of Vilnius and guests to the city will be able to visit the specially designed pavilion and see a unique model of the Old Town. The interactive model will allow you to see the changes in the city’s topography and buildings, as well as its demographic, social and cultural development. Discover the story bank in Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago.

Interactive model of the pavilion – Vilnius 200 years ago

The idea to present the city with Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago as a gift for its anniversary arose after the Lithuanian National Museum’s museologists acquired a 19th-century map of the city and images of all its buildings. This is an irreplaceable archive from Moscow and St. Petersburg, which provides a very detailed picture of Vilnius 200 years ago. Until now, it was only possible to rely on drawings and 19th-century photographs.

However, the past had to be reconstructed from fragments – photographers captured reality, but they chose exceptional places, moments and events. It wasn’t easy to form a true picture of everyday life from those photographs alone. The model of the city restores old Vilnius in great detail, making it possible to analyse its development and changes. Residents of Vilnius and guests to the city can now carefully study what their favourite places, Old Town streets and tourist attractions looked like a couple of hundred years ago. Exhibits and previously untold thematic stories about the city and life back in the day will allow you to look at Vilnius through the eyes of its past inhabitants.

In search of a lost Vilnius

The pavilion is presenting a period of Vilnius’ history when major changes took place, including the division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian occupation and subsequent uprisings and deportations, and Vilnius becoming part of Poland. However, through all these changes, the daily lives of the townspeople continued.

The interactive project is turning the clock 200 years back in time. It is inviting visitors to discover how houses changed owners, who inhabited different quarters of the city, which buildings have survived to this day, who visited which prayer house, where the city’s elite and cultural figures lived, which buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries were occupied and confiscated by the Russian administration, and the locations of defensive structures. Using modern technologies – lighting, sound, projections and augmented reality – the pavilion is helping to restore the connection of Vilnius’ residents with the historical city by taking a closer look at the history of the inhabitants themselves.

Dialogue between the past and present

The model created for Vilnius’ 700th anniversary is allowing the city to talk to its citizens. It is inviting contemporary residents to communicate to the residents of the past, regardless of the time difference. The Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago project is, for the first time, allowing for a thorough restoration of the city that has been lost for 200 years.

To befriend a city, you first need to get to know it. Therefore, the model supplemented with modern technologies connects the past and the present and builds a bridge to the future. The lost Vilnius of the past is acquiring a body in the pavilion – it is a unique and historically accurate 18th-19th-century reconstruction. Travelling two centuries in one moment, walking the streets of a lost city and seeing the images change before your eyes is a unique opportunity that is finally available this year.

An exclusive long-term gift for the city

In celebration of Vilnius’ 700th anniversary, the pavilion model exhibition is taking place in a temporary building in front of the New Arsenal of the Lithuanian National Museum, this May to September. Discussions, lectures and creative workshops are also going to help audiences get to know Vilnius of the 18th-19th centuries better. It’s a great opportunity to discover the city’s past on your own while looking at places or listening to stories that you’re interested in. Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago is an exceptional opportunity for students to get acquainted with the history of the city. The project also involves ethnic minorities, allowing them to learn about the role and importance of their communities in the context of Vilnius’ history.

Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago was born from careful research by historians and art historians of the Lithuanian National Museum. However, even during its creation phase, residents of Vilnius haven’t been passive observers – when creating the pavilion, people have been invited to discuss the past, present and future of Vilnius. The project has been open to residents and tourists alike – historical content is being presented in Lithuanian, English and Russian. Follow the creation of Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago, join the discussions and see the interactive layout this summer.

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