From Aircraft to Pistol
The Vytautas the Great War Museum is one of the oldest museums in Lithuania. Its establishment started in 1919 by the initiative of general, physician and archaeologist Vladas Nagevičius. The opening ceremony was celebrated in the Old Russian Orthodox Church and former manège of the 111th Don Infantry Regiment on 16 February 1921 – on the day of the commemoration of Lithuania’s Independence. The first exhibits were the trophies of the independence battles. Within a short period of time, the War Museum became an important source of the Lithuanian culture. In 1930, the cornerstone of the new building of the museum was consecrated. The new building, where the War Museum has been operating to this very day, was opened in 1936. It was designed by Vladimiras Dubeneckis and Karolis Reisonas. The crypt to those who lost their lives for the freedom and independence of Lithuania was opened in the museum in 1938 and restored in 1998. The activity of the institution was significantly reorganised by the occupations. However, the activity of the museum as a preserver of the values of the Lithuanian history was restored on 29 January 1990 and it reclaimed the name of Vytautas the Great. In 2006, the rights of the establisher of the museum were taken over by the Ministry of National Defence.
The mission of the Vytautas the Great War Museum is to collect, store and propagate the monuments and exponents of the Lithuanian nation and Lithuanian national battles for freedom and independence that illustrate the history of the Lithuanian military forces, the evolution of weapons and military attributes as well as the values of the material and spiritual culture. The collection of the museum includes archaeological findings, cold weapons and firearms, ammunition kits that illustrate the development of the Lithuanian national and military history. This is also a place of storage of photo negatives and pictures, collections of uniforms of Lithuanian and foreign military forces, sets of documents and books, exponents telling the story of the flight of Darius and Girėnas across the Atlantic with airplane “Lituanica” in 1933. The expositions of the museum are open not only in this building, but also in the other two branches: Underground Printing-House “ab” and Technique and Transport Department in Vilnius.