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Simonas Daukantas: „I am laying the foundations for being Lithuanian“

14 March–12 May 2019
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

The National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, in cooperation with the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, have organised the exhibition Simonas Daukantas I am laying the foundations for being Lithuanian, dedicated to the eminent 19th-century Lithuanian historical figure, Simonas Daukantas (1793–1864), who was the first to write the history of Lithuania in the Lithuanian language and later entered the pages of Lithuanian culture, literature and history himself.

The exhibition is organised together with various Lithuanian memory institutions: museums, libraries, the Lithuanian State Historical Archives and private individuals protecting all manner of heritage objects related to Daukantas. Over 110 exhibits are being presented that testify to the life and memory of the historian, constituting two main themes in the exhibition. Most attention focuses on the manuscripts of Daukantas' works that have memorialised his activities. A large part of this legacy is kept at the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore.

The part of the exhibition dedicated to Daukantas' biography and works features the most important relics that offer the finest reflection of his path in life and the multi-faceted nature of his activities, their meanigful symbiosis conveyed in the historian's own words “Aš dėl lietuvystės pamatus dedu” (I am laying the foundations for being Lithuanian).

Daukantas' biography features a number of legendary tales, including stories about his peasant origins, which were later revised to reflect a noble upbringing, and his mythical journey on foot from Kalviai, in Žemaitija (Samogitia), to Vilnius. There are but a handful of objects that may be associated with Daukantas – a chair and chest that have been attributed to him, kept at the Aušros Museum in Šiauliai, are presented in this exhibition.

The legacy that Daukantas created himself is much richer. His chosen path in life as a historian, educator and ethnographer began with his studies and life in Vilnius. Every stage of the author's life – in Kalviai, Vilnius, Riga, Saint Petersburg, Varniai and Papilė – is presented separately, marked by the historian's most well-known work from each period – Darbay senuju Lituwiu yr Zemaycziu (Deeds of the Ancient Lithuanians and Samogitians), Istoryje Ƶemaytyszka (Samogitian History), Buda Senowes Lëtuwiû Kalnienû ir Zámajtiû (The Character of the Ancient Lithuanians, Highlanders and Samogitians) and Pasakojimas apej wejkalus Lietuwiu tautos senowie (Story of the Deeds of the Ancient Lithuanians). These works are grounded in their interdisciplinary approach as they express a distinct influence of Western philosophers, including Niccolò Machiavelli, Johann Gottfried Herder and Benedictus de Spinoza. Some of their works appear in a catalogue of his library that Daukantas compiled himself. Only one of the historian's own works was published while he was alive – Būdas (The Character... ). Whilst creating historical works, the author referred to the Lithuanian Metrica then stored at the Russian Imperial Senate in Saint Petersburg. He would secretly make copies of the documents it contained while he worked there. Today, some of them are kept at the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore. 

When he left his official post, Daukantas returned to Lithuania. He died in the same region where he was born – in Žemaitija, in the town of Papilė. He was not forgotten after his death – Daukantas' contribution to being Lithuanian is acknowledged even today, while the legacy of his memory nowadays is much richer than any biographical relics.

In the second part of the exhibition, visitors can see various types of works that have memorialised Daukantas. Only one portrait was ever created of the historian during his lifetime, we know of no other images. This sole painting went on to become a source of inspiration for other artists who created works of art to memorialise and honour Simonas Daukantas. Medals, postcards, folk art pieces (carvings, embroidery), sculptures, graphic art works and monographs – a rich collection of works of many genres is exhibited, reminding us of Daukantas' importance and his immeasureable contribution to being Lithuanian.

Exhibition organisers
National Museum Palace of the Grand dukes of Lithuania
Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore

Exhibition curator
Gintarė DŽIAUGYTĖ

Scientific and cultural program coordinators
Dr. Jolanta KARPAVIČIENĖ
Gintarė ROŽĖNAITĖ

Educational program coordinator
Vida KAUNIENĖ

Exhibition publicity coordinators
Ramunė VAIČIULYTĖ
Mindaugas PUIDOKAS

Exhibition installation coordinators
Eduardas KAUKLYS
Kęstutis KARLA

Sponsors