History of the museum

The Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv is one of the major national art and culture treasuries in Ukraine and in the world. It was founded by Metropolitan Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Andrey Sheptytsky in 1905 as the “Church Museum” (having a private foundation status). It was officially registered in 1908, December 29, as a science foundation “The Church Museum in Lviv” that was established to “feature Ukrainian cultural life”. 

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptysky donated the collections of church books, manuscripts, ecclesiastical textiles, icons that he “throughout the years assembled in great difficulties and complications”.  Following the recommendation of A. Petrushevych, a famous church and public figure, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky invited a gifted scholar Ilarion Sventsytsky (1876 – 1956) to run the museum and take charge of the collections. Ilarion Sventsytsky became the Director and organizer of the Museum’s overall collections (1905 – 1952).  Under the persistent patronship of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky and because of the diligent efforts of Professor   Ilarion Sventsytsky the Museum grew into the science and art institution of the European renown.

Due to the rapid development of the foundation and enlargement of the holdings which passed beyond the boundaries of the ecclesiastical art the discrepancy between the name of the Museum and the character of the collections became obvious. In 1911, July 11, the foundation was given the name of “The National Museum in Lviv”.

At first the Museum was located in the “several rooms at Saint George’s premises”. In 1911, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky purchased a mansion of Professor of Lviv University Emil Dunikovsky at 42, M. Mokhnatsky Street (presently – M. Drahomanov Str.) that perfectly suited to the task as a new Museum’s house. It was here that on December, 13th 1913, the opening ceremony of the National Museum in Lviv took place and the founder pronounced its solemn donation to the Ukrainian people.

On December 4th, 1931, Soyuz Prykhylnykiv Natsionalnoho Muzeyu (Fellowship of the Adherents of the National Museum in Lviv (FANM)) was founded with the purpose of organizational and financial support of the institution. In 1934, at the council of the FANM the “Litopys Natsionalnoho Muzeyu u Lvovi”(“Chronicle of the National Museum in Lviv”) journal was established.  In 1934–1939 five issues of the ”Litopys” were published.

Already by the mid-1920s, the building of the Museum no longer met the needs of the modern repository of the growing collections and in 1930–1935 to expand the facility the new side wing (next to the main building) was constructed (according to the project by O. Pezhansky).

On September 27th, 1935, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Museum`s establishment and to honor the 70th birthday of the founder the monument to Metropolitan Andrey Septytsky was ceremoniously inaugurated in front of the main building of the NML. It was created by the famous Ukrainian sculptor Serhiy Lytvynenko (demolished by the soviet power in 1947).

Since its foundation in 1905, the Museum remained the focus of national cultural and spiritual activity, playing a leading role in public life. It became the point to which the prominent Ukrainian cultural, church, political figures, and scientists turned their keen attention – Ivan Franko, Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Filater Kolessa,  Mykhailo Pavlyk,  f. Yosyp Slipyi, Solomiya Krushelnytska, Vasyl  Shchurat, f. Klymentiy Sheptytsky, Ivan Trush, Ivan Kryp`yakevych, Volodymyr Shcherbakivsky, Petro Kholodnyi, and other.

Professor Ilarion Sventsytsky, having a diverse knowledge of Slavic culture, art history, museology, launched a complex program of development of the collections so as to reflect all the forms of culture as spiritual integrity of the people.  Thus, the extensive collections held by the Museum included Ukrainian icon-painting of the 14th–18th cc., rare manuscripts and old printed books, Ukrainian painting of the 18th – 21st  cc., sculpture, graphics, old decorative textiles of the 15th– 18th cc.,  items of woodcarving of the 17th – 19th cc., artistic metalwork of the 11th – 18th cc., folk art, archeology. By 1935 overall holdings accounted near 80 000 artifacts.

Between 1939 – 1950s, following the reorganization of the museum institutions, the repositories of the NML were replenished by the collections of  the Lviv museums which were abolished:  the museum of Lviv Theological Academy, Stauropaegia Institute, People`s House, Shevchenko Science Society, museums of Liubomyrsky, Jan III (Sobiesky),  Studite Monastery ‘Studion’, ‘Boykivshchyna’ museum (Sambir, Lviv Region), depositories of “Prosvita” (Enlightenment) Society, “People`s Trade”, “Maslosouyz”, ”Dniester” Cooperative Bank and other. 

At the same time the dramatic events were written down into the history of the National Museum. In 1952,   1728 works by the outstanding Ukrainian artists of the late 19th – early 20th cc. (such as: Ivan Trush, Oleksandr Arkhypenko, Oleksa Novakivsky, Serhiy Lytvynenko, Mykhailo Boychuk, Mykola Butovych, Vasyl Krychevsky, Fotiy Krasytsky, Pavlo Kovzhun, Oleksa Hryshchenko, Mykola Hlushchenko, Mykola Andriyenko-Nechytailo and other) as well as over 4000 books, 138 volumes and paper-cases of archives were destroyed as “ideologically harmful”. The next step was a transition of the 10 000-piece collection of old Ukrainian art into the Armenian Cathedral that was not properly equipped for storage of artworks.  

The National Museum’s story records several changes of its name. In May 1940, after the rearrangement of the institution it became the Ukrainian Department of the Lviv State Art Gallery (with joint administration headed by I.Sventsytsky). During the Nazi occupation of the city (1941 – 1944) its historical name and status were restored.  But in 1944, it was renamed the Lviv State Museum of Ukrainian Art, and in 1965, – the Lviv Museum of Ukrainian Art.  In 1990, during perestroika in the USSR, the Museum was returned its historical name; in 1994, when Ukraine became independent, it got a legitimate name of the Art and Science Foundation of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky – National Museum in Lviv.  In December 2005, in commemoration of the centenary of the institution’s establishment according to the Ukase (Edict) of President of Ukraine the Museum was honored with the name of its founder – THE ANDREY SHEPTYTSKY NATIONAL MUSEUM IN LVIV.  

In 1991, the NML was rendered the building of the former Museum of Arts and Crafts named for Franz Josef I of Austria (20, Svobody avenue), a magnificent edifice built after the project  of Leonardo Marconi and Joseph Yanovski (1904). In 1950–1990, the Lviv Branch of the Central V. Lenin Museum was open here. Today this erection houses well-equipped storerooms of icons, sculptures, decorative wood carvings (the collections taken from the Armenian Cathedral were located here in 1993 – 2003), as well as paintings, and ecclesiastical textiles, etc.  The spacious exhibition rooms highlight the best monuments of   Ukrainian art of the 12th – early 20th cc. which reflect the evolution of the national culture in the span of nine centuries.  

At present the Museum grew into a major public institution, the repository of over 175 000 objects that signify the best attainments of Ukrainian culture as the integral part of the world spiritual and artistic treasury.  Among the highlights is the richest in the world collection of Ukrainian ecclesiastical art of the 12th – 18th cc. with the most valuable collection of icons from the 14th – 18th cc. (over 4 000 objects). The National Museum’s collection of manuscripts and old printed books that contains over 10 000 monuments is numbered among the most important collections of this kind in Europe.  The Museum is a proud repository of valuable examples of printed graphics and drawings by Ukrainian professional and folk masters of the 17th – 18th cc. as well as works by renowned Western European masters. Rounding out the collection are the first-rate samples of Oriental graphic arts. Ukrainian art of the 19th –– 20th cc. is represented by the works of such prominent painters as: Taras Shevchenko, Kornylo Ustyianovych, Teofil Kopystynsky, Serhiy Vasylkyvsky, Fotiy Krasytsky, Mykola Murashko, Mykhailo Tkachenko, Ivan Trush, Oleksa Novakivsky, Olena Kulchytska, Mykhailo Boychuk, Modest Sosenko, Lev Gets, Petro Kholodny. The collection of Ukrainian contemporary art makes it possible to follow the progress of the main tendencies and trends: beginning from the 1920s to the artistic experiments at the turn of the 20th – 21st cc. (works by Mykola Hlushchenko, Oleksandr Arkhypenko, Margit and Roman Selsky, Karlo Zvirynsky, Volodymyr Patyk, Liubomyr Medvid, Danylo Dovboshynsky,  Oleh Minko, Zenoviy Flinta, Yevhen Lysyk, Emmanuil Mysko, Dmytro Krvavych, Yevhen Dzyndra, Yakiv Chayka, Roman Petruk, Volodymyr Odrekhivsky and other).  The extensive and variegated folk art collection consists of over 20 000 individual artifacts dating from the 17th – 20th cc.   

Functioning as departments of the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv are the Memorial Art Museums of Ivan Trush, Oleksa Novakivsky, Olena Kulchytska,  Leopold Levytsky and “Sokalshchyna” (“Sokal area”) Art Museum (town of Chervonohrad, Lviv Region). 

Since 2000 the publication of the “Litopys” (“Chronicle of the National Museum in Lviv”) was resumed. The arrangements are under way to renew Soyuz Prykhylnykiv Natsionalnoho Muzeyu (Fellowship of the Adherents of the National Museum in Lviv (FANM)). 

In the last few years, the attendance of the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv has rapidly grown reaching the point of over 150 000 visitors yearly. The Museum serves as the major spiritual and artistic resource for the entire Western Ukraine and plays host of over 100 regional, national and international exhibitions and other art events annually. It continues and enhances its mission as a leading centre of scientific and educational activity in Ukraine.