Thomas Mann Museum
Writer Thomas Mann Memorial Museum is one of the most popular museums in the west of Lithuania.
According to the writer Thomas Mann, he and his wife Katia were ‘seized by the indescribable peculiarity and beauty of nature, and the fantastic world of shifting dunes’ on their first visit to Nida in the summer of 1929, and they quickly made up their minds to ‘build a permanent residence’ here. A summer house based on a design by Herbert Reissmann, an architect from Klaipėda, was built on Mother-in-Law Hill in Nida in 1930, where Mann spent three summers with his family (1930 to 1932). In 1939, the summer house was nationalised and converted into a hunting lodge called Elk Wood. It suffered severe damage after the war.
The house was repaired in the 1950s on the initiative of Antanas Venclova, the chairman of the Lithuanian Writer’s Union. It served as accommodation for professionals arriving to work in Neringa and in 1965, it was taken over by the municipal library of Klaipėda.
The house was refurbished once again in 1995–1996 based on surviving drawings of Reissman and the reminiscences of Thomas Mann’s daughter Elisabeth, in an effort to restore the authentic atmosphere.
Since 2014, the museum has housed a new exhibition. Thanks to the state-of-the-art technologies, the exhibition presents the life and work of the Nobel Prize winner and poetically recreates the atmosphere of the days that the writer spent in the summer house.
Today the Thomas Mann House accommodates two institutions:
- Neringa Museums
- Public Institution Thomas Mann Cultural Centre
The main room of the museum serves as a venue for performances of chamber music, literary gatherings, international forums organised by the Thomas Mann Cultural Centre, and the events of the Thomas Mann Festival.
Curonian Spit History Museum
The Curonian Spit History Museum is located in the northern part of Nida, close to the Writer Thomas Mann Memorial Museum.
The museum was opened on 16 September 1969, in the building of Evangelical Lutheran church, the activities of which were suspended at that time. Its exhibition, being restricted by the Soviet ideology, did not represent important aspects of the history of the Curonian Spit. The exhibition displayed in a church showed only the formation of the Curonian Spit and the Curonian Lagoon, local people, nature, businesses, etc.
The history of the museum was complicated: the exhibition was dismantled after the return of the church to the religious congregation in 1989. The next phase in its history was also marked by transience: an exhibition of trades of inhabitants of the Curonian Spit was housed in rented premises between 1995 and 2002. In 2002, the museum moved to a new building on Pamario street in Nida. The new exhibition presents the traditions and trades of inhabitants of the Curonian Spit (hunting crows for food, fishing gear, boat models). A mannequin demonstrating a peculiar fishing technique, bumbinimas(fishing on ice by rousing fish), is particularly interesting to visitors. Unique Stone Age finds form a valuable part of the exhibition, including a part of a wooden boat, pottery and stone axes, discovered during archaeological excavations in Nida in 1974–1978.
Highlights of the exhibition are the history of the Nida post station and the licence issued to its proprietor Friedrich Casimir Kuwert in 1785 to brew beer in his coaching inn, showing how Nida flourished before 1833 and was visited by members of Europe’s high society, including King Frederick William III and Queen Louise of Prussia, the French philosopher Denis Diderot, etc. The documents, photographs and maps tell the visitors about the post road which ran along the Curonian Spit from the mid-17th century to 1833.
Nida Fisherman’s Ethnographic Homestead
The Ethnographic Fisherman’s Homestead in Nida, which is typical in the Curonian Spit, is situated on the shore of the lagoon in the southern part of old Nida, in the former village of Haken (part of the village on the cape in the lagoon).
The farmstead was built by local craftsmen in 1927 and consisted of two connected buildings, which was a typical layout at the time: once the offspring of the family got married, an extension to a house was built and the new family settled next to the parents. In the 20th century, a fisherman called Martin Purwin (1857–1943) lived with his wife and three children in the part of the house which today houses the Ethnographic Fisherman’s Museum. Following the death of his wife in 1907, he married Ana Peleikis (1875–1951) from Preila, who brought her son Johan Peleikis (1905–1994) along. They had two more children together. Later on, Johan took over his stepfather’s fishing business, and in 1932 married Henrietta Kubillus (1909–1981) from Preila. The couple had five children, and in 1944, the family moved to northern Germany, like most of the population of the Curonian Spit.
The farmstead was severely damaged by drift ice in 1970. With strong south-easterly winds blowing, drift ice came dangerously close to the house, where the sleeping master of the household must have experienced the most unexpected ‘ride’ together with the house.
In 1973, conservationists from Klaipėda restored both residential houses and the outbuilding. The building facing the lagoon features an exhibition of a typical house interior and tells of daily life of a fisherman living on the Curonian Spit at the turn of the 20th century. The entire homestead-turned-museum was fitted out to reflect the old way of life of local fishermen.
The exhibition was first renewed in 2017, using modern innovative equipment, various visual solutions and creative installations in order to create a sense of presence of the old residents of the house. The idea behind the renewed exhibition is a sense of a moment stilled in time, as if the house was full of life and bustle of its inhabitants. Therefore, authentic articles are placed as if they were in use.