“The Contribution of Dr. Carl Patsch (1865-1945) to Albanian museology”

During World War I (1916-1918), the leaders of Austro-Hungarian authorities invited Austrian scholars and archaeologists in Albania to dig for archaeological and ethnographic objects, as well as to open temporary exhibitions with these objects in Austria. At the same time, the study of Albanian environment that had begun in linguistics, ethnography, rituals, customs and archaeology, had the chance to be concretized with administrative initiatives to support Albania’s cultural development as was the case of the Literary Commission or promotion for the establishment of museum exhibitions. Years later, Dr. Carl Patsch played a great role in this aspect of museology. He is one of the founders of Illyrian archeology. The outcome of his scientific research was presented in “Das Sandschak Berat in Albanien”, published in Vienna in 1904. After Congress of Lushnje (1920), Albanian intellectuals once more reinforced the idea for the construction of a National Museum. Despite the obstacles encountered by the country, the government decided to pay attention to the collection of museum facilities and written historical resources. In this context, the history of Albanian National Museums began in 1922, with the establishment of the National Historical Museum in Tirana. The first director was Viska Babatasi. With government funds, a modest building, located on “Abdi bej Toptani” street, was built near the Continental Hotel. The first collections consisted mainly of archeological objects. Due to the lack of museum experts, given the contribution of Austrian archaeologists, the Albanian government invited Dr. Carl Patsch, one of the Balkan folk culture connoisseurs and professor at the University of Vienna, who was engaged in the past with Zemaljski Museum in Sarajevo and Bosnian National Museum. Dr. Patsch was contacted in July 1922 by the Ministry of Education and accepted the offer, but not to run it from the administrative side. He wanted to continue lecturing at the University of Vienna as well, so he had to find an assistant to help him. He trusted his compatriot, Robert Ecker. Mr. Xhevat Korça, an ex student of Dr. Patsch, who had completed university studies in Vienna, was also engaged in this project.

Dr. Pastch managed to gather important objects within a very short period of time. He compiled the project according to that of Zemaljski Museum. The museum must consist of three sections: the archaeological section, the historical-ethnographic section and the science of nature section. The first two sections got richer in objects very soon, especially the first one. The reason was that it brought objects that were rescued during the Balkan Wars and the First World War. He also enriched the archaeological section with objects brought in Durres. These objects were transported from Apollonia by Austro-Hungarian soldiers under Prashniker’s leadership. The main focus was the Illyrian population and the fact that makes Albanians an early population possessing a large territory. The following was the figure of Gjergj Kastriot-Skanderbeg, by virtue of which the Albanians were the last people in Balkan, who were subjected to the Ottomans. Finally, the museum’s mastermind wanted to illustrate ethnographic evidence of Albanians. He introduced a collection of weapons, representing the hardihood of Albanians. Dr. Patsch also wanted to gather the tomb steles, as past evidence. Despite the difficulties, archeological collections came to be enriched right away, not only with archaeological finds of foreign missions, but with occasional ones as well as with historical objects donated to the National Museum by citizens themselves.

In 1923, Dr. Patsch published “The Illyrians”, with a basic description of villages and monuments of Vlora, Berat, Apollonia, Bylis, Orik and Amantia. It was also difficult for him to continue his work in a government that had limited funds; but also due to political reasons and the competition announced in the field of archaeological excavations from France and Italy. Austria of the 20s, although it was still an attractive pole for the Albanian nationalist elite, was no longer the former Empire that could hinder the ambitions of other powers in Albania and help it empower politically and culturally. However, the albanological interest that had started with Han in the mid-nineteenth century, 70 years later under the expertise of Dr. Patsch, enabled the establishment of the National Museum in Albania.

 

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