Petrit Halilaj is an artist born in Kostërrc, Kosovo and this website is dedicated to collecting all materials, exhibitions, publications, general research, conferences, negotiations, ideas, failures and new beginnings around the disapperence of the former Natural History Museum of Kosovo and a partly reestablishment and extension of it through forming a collaboration with the initiative for the Kosovo Environmental Education & Research Center (KEERC).
The Natural History Museum in Pristina, Kosovo, established in 1951 once housed a collection of 1,812 specimen, mostly birds and was much loved and appreciated. The turbulent history of the region finds concrete form in the labels and museum inventories of the species – from Cyrillic Serbian only, to Serbian, Albanian and scientific Latin, to an erasure of Albanian, to a consequently erasure of Serbian according to the country’s new identity. In 2001 it was decided that biodiversity was not a topic of interest anymore and the vitrines with hundreds of skeletons, insects and taxidermied animal bodies were cleaned out to be locked into wooden crates and shoved into a damp basement to allow room for the display of the new Ethnographic Museum of Kosovo. The explorations of interspecies relationships fell victim to the display of a specific cultural narrative. The museum, no less than any other, holds within it metaphorically, actually the story of a nation.
On 14 July 2013, following much negotiations and discussions, Petrit Halilaj had persuaded the former director to open the sealed door towards the storage of the remnants of the Natural History Museum to find much of its contents distroyed and forever lost. Some of the remnants of the Natural History Museum are taken as starting points for further artistic enquiry into this forgotten collection and its history, but more important is the fact that the opening of the door opened other possibilities. One of these possibilities is the contact and exchange with a group of scientists from the University of Konstanz, Germany who are indeed working on the creation of a new collection of natural history in Kosovo, extending the notion of a museum much further towards other influences, ideas, methodologies and collaborations.
Petrit Halilaj, Several birds fly away when they understand it, 2011