The remodeled room in which the Sarajevo Haggadah is kept in the National Museum will open on February 22, with more viewing hours for the Museum visitors.
The upgrade, financed by the Embassy of France and supported by UNESCO, improved the level of protection of the medieval Passover book, which is why the Haggadah will be on display for the visitors two days a week. The works on improving the protection against fluctuations in light, air temperature and humidity, as well as fire and theft, lasted for several months.
The room now features a screen with a virtual presentation of the Haggadah. As part of the upgrade project, new copies of the book will be printed, with most recent findings on the manuscript.
The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript that contains the illustrated traditional text of the Passover Haggadah which accompanies the Passover Seder. It is one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world, originating in Barcelona around 1350. Its monetary value is undetermined, but a museum in Spain required that it be insured for $7 million before it could be transported to an exhibition there in 1992.
The Haggadah survived many close calls with destruction. Historians believe that it was taken out of Spain by Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492. It was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894. During World War II, the manuscript was hidden from the Nazis by the Museum’s chief librarian. In 1992, during the Bosnian War, the Haggadah survived a museum break-in and it was discovered on the floor during the police investigation by a local inspector, with many other items thieves believed were not valuable. The book was kept in the underground vault of the Central Bank until the end of the siege of Sarajevo in 1995.
In popular culture, the novel People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (2008), crafts a fictionalized history of the Haggadah from its origins in Spain to the National Museum in Sarajevo.