With the approaching anniversary of 150 years since the birth of Antanas Smetona, the President of the Republic of Lithuania, we kindly invite to transfer the passionate debates raging in the society regarding the assessment of Smetona’s political activity into a cozier environment which has been professionally prepared for such discussions – to the exhibition Antanas Smetona: Tough Decisions.

The attention of the visitors is directed to 17 important choices which Antanas Smetona had to make either personally or in a team. Each of the options is explored by considering historical materials, such as archive documents, memoirs and scientific historiography. Arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’ have been prepared. They help us realize the importance of the President’s personality, his associates and the contemporary political context for the decisions to be taken. These major and minor dilemmas lead the visitors along the path of the life of Antanas Smetona up until his decision to withdraw from Lithuania on 15 June 1940, and the choices to be made help us get to know better not only Antanas Smetona as a key historical personality, but also the entire period of the Interwar Independence of Lithuania.

The exhibition is interactive, and it may be explored in three different ways. The simplest option is to get chronologically introduced to the choices of Antanas Smetona in his path of life and political activity. Those who enjoy detective puzzles are offered the harder way of avoiding the answer stand while tracking down various hints which are left for the curious minds to see at the Presidential Office. Trying out the presidential shoes may lead to opening up new horizons to you! Meanwhile, anyone indulging in self-reflection may opt for the comparative strategy and try to answer whatever they would do in an equivalent situation. Why don’t we discuss the options with the other visitors of the exhibition? Are there any other alternatives present? The organizers of the exhibition believe that any of the suggested ways of exploration will allow us not only to get to know the personality of Antanas Smetona better, but will also experience the burden of responsibility stemming from the duty of taking historical decisions.

When Lithuania declared and regained independence, Kaunas became the provisional capital of the country. The city was growing and prospering, and various state and private institutions were getting established. In the city, a relatively broad layer of intellectuals and ‘white collars’ was forming, and it led to the development of the new habits of life. The lifestyle was getting ever more modern and rapid, and an occasional Litas to spare in the pocket dictated the need for holidays along with the developing holiday fashion. Therefore, with the advent of the warmer days, with the final performance of the State Theatre of each season, not only the school desks, but also the city streets were vacated. Depending on the financial muscle, some folks would withdraw to a farmstead in the countryside, whereas others would enjoy the chance to test the waters of Kaunas City beaches in Aukštoji Panemunė, Lampėdžiai or Aleksotas. Each year, 9 to 12 public beaches were being installed for the city residents where they just loved to refresh themselves on a hot summer day, or to get pampered by sunbathing during their holidays. Still, most representatives of the cultural and political elite would go for the beaches of Palanga – which they called ‘the Capital’ – during their holidays.

Read more: 2023 05 13 – 2023 10 31 Open-air exhibition “Interwar Kaunasites on vacation: from Kaunas beaches...

The historical palace commonly known as the residence of the Presidents of Lithuania (1919–1940) has reshaped itself. Time portals will take you to seven epochs: the Governor’s Palace, the Ober Ost Commander’s residence, the Presidential Palace, the house of the Supreme Council Presidium, Nazi Headquarters, the Teachers’ House and the revived historical palace. The motley list of its residents and visitors includes Tsars, Kaisers, military commanders, artists and even a Pope! The palace is as if a crossroads of the history of Kaunas and entire Europe.

The new exhibition will surprise city residents and its guests: here, history can be seen, heard, touched, smelled…

Exhibition Stories of the House is accessible to a variety of audiences: a remotely operating guide compatible with tablets has been prepared in Lithuanian, English, Russian and German, in Lithuanian Sign Language and as a Lithuanian version for the blind. Visitors will be able to touch copies of the most interesting exhibits specially adapted for the blind and hear audio recordings. In 2022, accessibility will be expanded further: tactile schemes and an informative marking system will be installed, and comics will be designed for the young.

Visitors of broadest variety of interests are welcome.

The exhibition Redde quod debes: State Awards of the Republic of Lithuania 1920–1940 presents the most important State Orders and Awards protected from damage and saved at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art. After Lithuania's occupation in 1940, some of the property of State institutions was transferred to museums. In May 1941, Pijus Bielskus, Chancellor of the Orders of the President's Office under liquidation, following the order of  a secretary of the Supreme Council of LSSR Stasys Pupeikis, handed over to the museum the Chains of the Order of Vytautas the Great, Orders and Medals of Vytautas the Great, Orders and Medals of GDL Gediminas, Orders of the Vytis Cross (old and new issues), Medals of the 10th Anniversary of Independence, Medals of  Volunteers-Founders, Life Saving Crosses, Medals of the Anniversary of Vilnius (1323–1923), the manufacture samples and miniatures of  the Order of Vytautas the Great, samples of foreign Orders, and Award certificates of Lithuanian Orders – 12,861 items in total. On 13 September 1940, 15 Orders of the Home Guard Star were passed from the Riflemen's Union under liquidation to the Historical Department of the Kaunas State Museum of Culture. Hereby, Orders and Awards of the State of Lithuania which are now displayed in their historic home have been saved from destruction.

Read more: 2020 02 13 – 2024 02 16 Redde quod debes: State Awards of the Republic of Lithuania 1920–1940

The modernized and updated exposition introduces the Presidents of the First Republic of Lithuania (1918–1940) in traditional and innovative ways. Three presidents took the presidential oath of office: Antanas Smetona spend the whole 15 years in this office; Aleksandras Stulginskis – 6 years (including 2 years, when as the Chairman of the Constituent Seimas he was an Acting President); and Kazys Grinius had barely 6 months, a short term ended by Coup d’État. The President was elected by Seimas. The State President’s institution underwent many serious changes over two decades of the First Republic of Lithuania – changing from nominal and representative to autocracy. This evolution may be traced in explicit photo galleries, documentary films, and president’s speeches that are available on a touch-screen terminal.  

Read more: Since 2014 – The Presidents of the First Republic of Lithuania

A permanent historical exhibition of representative portraits, pieces of art that originally decorated the interior of the Palace, gifts to the Presidents, surviving authentic furniture, historical pictures recording the Presidents’ foreign and internal activities, public activities, pictures from personal life and many more things that tell the story of the First Republic of Lithuania (1918-1940).