Re-opening of the Naval Museum, Varna, Bulgaria

    The history of the museum dates from 1883 when officers of the Danubian Fleet in Rousse started a collection of marine relics. The first public exhibition was set up in 1923 and until 1955 was known to the public as a ‘Marine Museum’.

    In 1955 management of the museum transferred to the Defence Ministry and the collection was housed in the present building, re-named as a ‘Naval Museum’.

    In April 2012, the museum re-opened after a painstaking renovation of the exterior and interior of the building.
    The Museum has on display no less than a 1,000 objects which comprise about one percent of the collection. The new exhibits trace chronologically the evolution of seafaring navigation along Bulgaria’s seashores since antiquity.
    Stone anchors provide evidence of active navigation along the West Black Sea coast dating as far back as the expedition of the Argonauts and the Trojan Wars.

    The reconstruction of an antique cargo ship section filled with amphorae enhances understanding of earliest periods of seafaring with craft manned by oarsmen with strength and rowing dexterity.The reconstruction of a gun deck typical of the combatant sailing ships of the 18thC offers better comprehension of the ship as a means of warfare. Skilfully presented graphics and sound effects provide for this exhibit a visual and acoustic picture of a naval battle.

    Other significant artefacts on display were recovered from sunken wrecks; such as canons, the windlass of a sunken sailboat and ship rigging. In the museum visitors can ‘dive’ into the depths of the sea by watching the intriguingly reconstructed seabed scenery. There is also a collection of ship figureheads, not found elsewhere in Bulgarian museums.

    The museum displays some objects from the equipment of yacht Alexander I – the first ship Bulgaria purchased after the Liberation in 1878. Ship models, uniforms of naval commanders and seamen, and personal belongings trace Bulgarian marine and naval history from the Liberation to the present time.The Naval Museum’s open-air park gives space to exhibit a collection of naval mines, anchors and coastal artillery guns, helicopters, the Cor Carolli yacht and the 123 K torpedo-boat.

    Certainly the most attractive exhibit of the Naval Museum is the Druzki. Built at the beginning of the 20thC, today it is the only preserved torpedo-boat of this class worldwide.

    The Naval Museum has gained wide public acclaim as a research centre for the marine history of Bulgaria. Since 2001 the Museum has published Annual Proceedings of the Naval Museum – Varna in which Museum staff put into practice the longterm objective of popularising the marine and naval history of Bulgaria.

    Just a month after the re-opening, following a four-year break during renovations, the museum was for the first time included in the international initiative ‘Night of the Museums’. More than 3,500 people visited the Museum and took part in the varied programme.

    The Naval Museum is on the list of the one-hundred most popular Bulgarian tourist sites, and among the most-visited Bulgarian museums both by nationals and foreign visitors.