National cultural monument: Museum – the first building of the Slovak National Museum. The building is open to the public.
One of the most beautiful buildings in the town in terms of architectural design and decoration is the old building of the Slovak National Museum. Currently, it is located at a busy crossroads and is very easy to miss. If one wants to enjoy its beauty fully, they have to take a few steps back from it.
It instantly attracts attention thanks to a paradox: it is relatively small, but it looks monumental and representative. It was built for the Slovak National Museum in the years 1906 – 1907 according to the design of young Budapest architect Milan Michal Harminc. It is located next to its “older brother” – the National House where collections of the Slovak Museum Society, founded in 1893, had been kept. The priest and nationalist Andrej Kmeť, who was the custodian of the museum collections, supported the idea of constructing a separate museum building. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the opening of the new building. He died a few months before its ceremonial handover. The first exhibition was opened in 1908.
The building tries to match other large European national museums by its appearance. This is why the classicist design with antique elements was used. It is also remarkable that the exterior of the building has not been altered in its more than 100-year existence. No fundamental changes have been made to its interior either.
At the time of its creation, it was built in an undeveloped area of the city – the new streets of Turčiansky St Martin were just beginning to take shape so the main south facade of the building stood out well. Currently, the western facade with harmoniously distributed symmetrical surfaces is more dominant. The exterior of the building is literally full of decorative elements and visitors will be pleasantly surprised by rich decorations in the interior of the building as well. The atmosphere of the whole interior is determined by a representative entrance hall and staircase. Even though the building looks ancient, the architect applied new modern construction methods – for example, a reinforced concrete structure was used in the ceilings.
In his ceremonial speech on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the museum, Andrej Kmeť remarked that the space in the building would probably quickly become insufficient for the needs of the National Museum. He was right – a new museum building was built in Martin in 1938.
During its history, the building (especially after the Second World War), was rented by various tenants: for example, it was temporarily used by the army, it was the seat of the regional house of enlightenment, and was also used by the regional library and the local basic art school for children. Nevertheless, it is currently used as a museum again.
At the moment, it houses the permanent exhibitions Kmetianum, an exhibition reflecting Andrej Kmeť’s work, and Nature of Turiec. It is a branch of the Slovak National Museum in Martin and it houses the seat of the Department of Natural History Collections of Museums in Martin.