The Museum had been established at the apartment of Lithuanian writer Antanas Venclova, where he lived in the period between the years 1945 and 1971. Its exposition “A. Venclova’s Study” reflects the everyday life of Lithuanian intelligentsia in Vilnius in the 40s and 50s of the 20th century. Many enlightened persons of Lithuania visited this house and associated here. Tomas Venclova, the poet, essayist, spacious-mind publicist, professor of Yale (USA) University, grew up here, surrounded by the things exposed in the Museum.
Collection of the stocks of the Museum was started in the year 1973, when the Museum of Vilnius Writers had been established. Almost all exhibits were transferred to the Museum by Eliza Venclovienė the wife of A. Venclova; we co-operate with her up to now.
Following proposals of the Ministry of Culture and Education of Republic of Lithuania, the Museum of Vilnius Writers had been liquidated in the year 1990 according to the order of Vilnius Board of Culture, and A. Venclova Memorial Museum became an independent one under an umbrella of Vilnius Board of Culture. According to the order of the Minister of Culture and Education, all exhibits of A. Venclova stock were removed from the Museum of Vilnius Writers. In the year 1991, A. Venclova Memorial Apartment-Museum was reorganized into A. Venclova Memorial Study situated at Vilnius House of Lithuanian Culture and after the liquidation of the latter in the year 1996 the Study had been removed to Vilnius Ethnic Activities Center. In summer 2004, the Museum was named “Venclovas’ House – Museum”. Since June 2005, Venclovas’ House-Museum had been separated from Vilnius Ethnic Activities Center at the decision of Vilnius Municipality Board and was united with B. Grincevičiūtė Memorial Apartment-Museum „Beatričė House“, V. Krėvė – Mickevičius Memorial Museum and V. Mykolaitis – Putinas Memorial Apartment-Museum, and in this way the Directorate of Vilnius Memorial Museums had been formed.
At present, the collections of Venclovas’ House include over 8 thousand exhibits. The collections present the stock of Antanas Venclova, the stock of Tomas Venclova and the stock of Račkauskas family (recently formed new one).
Since the year 1996, the exposition of the Museum (according to the project developed by D. Skrebienė) “The Authentically Equipped Study of Writer Antanas Venclova”, where all furniture and most of personal things and artworks are the same that existed when the Writer lived, and the authentic environment is restored, is available for visitors.
The second half of the life of poet, writer and public figure Antanas Venclova (1906-1971) passed in the period of the Soviet occupation – the times of dramatic contradiction. He was the Minister of Education in the Government of Soviet Lithuania; the post of the Chairman of the Union of Writers as well as other important posts were entrusted to him, too. While the occupation endangered the national identity of Lithuanians, this person never was indifferent to preservation and legal assessment of Lithuanian culture. As early as in the year 1940, while being the Minister of Education, he allotted funds for restoration of Trakai Castle; later he was a member of the commissions for establishment of the Domestic Life Museum, preservation of the sites related to K. Donelaitis the classic of Lithuanian belles-lettres in Tolminkiemis (at present situated in Kaliningrad District), cared about an establishment of a museum in Niūronys the birthplace of writer J. Biliūnas, a preservation of the villa of writer Thomas Mann in Nida, contributed actively to formation of the public opinion on M. K. Čiurlionis the Lithuanian painter and composer, providing him a proper place in history of Lithuanian culture. A. Venclova was a member of the editorial boards for the book series “Lithuanistic Library” and “Lithuanian Folk Art” that were very important for a preservation of the cultural heritage of Lithuania; he worked hard to ensure publishing of that books. He communicated with writer V. Mykolaitis–Putinas, cared about writer A. Vienuolis. I. Simonaitytė in her memoir wrote:,,he made me a writer” (she kept in mind the editorial work, carried out by A. Venclova on her novel ,,The Fate of Aukštieji Šimonys”). He associated with artist S. Krasauskas and sculptor J. Mikėnas as well. Lithuanian writers M. Sluckis, J. Avyžius, K. Korsakas, J. Baltušis, P. Cvirka, B. Sruoga, K. Boruta and others as well as tens of German, Polish, Estonian, Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Chinese persons in culture visited this apartment.
The cultural media of the Venclovas House was affected not only by the colourful personality of A. Venclova himself, but also by the kin of his wife Eliza Venclovienė: her sister Marija Cvirkienė the painter; her father Merkelis Račkauskas the professor of philology at Kaunas University, later at Vilnius University, proficient of ancient languages and antique literature, translator and erudite; the father’s brother Karolis Vairas–Račkauskas the writer and translator, diplomat in prewar Lithuania.
Tomas Venclova (born in 1934) grew up at this apartment as well. At present, he is poet, translator, literary critic and publicist, professor of Yale University (USA). In the year 1995, he was awarded with the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas and the Cross of Commander. In the year 2000, he was a laureate of the National Prize of Republic of Lithuania for Culture and Arts, in 2001 – was provided with the honorary rank “The Boundary Person” (by the “Boundary” Foundation in Seinai), in 2002 – was awarded with St. Christopher sculpture for his merits in arts (by Vilnius Municipality). In the childhood, his world outlook was being formed not only by the abundant book stock of his father and the cultural media of the home, but also by communication with his grandfather M. Račkauskas. Up to now, about 20 books by T.Venclova in Lithuanian and about 30 books in other languages are published by various publishing houses of the world.
Political activities of T. Venclova are important for history of our nation as well.
On 1 August 1975, the Soviet Union, together with other European states, USA and Canada, signed the Final Act of the European Safety and Co-operation Conference (ESCC) in Helsinki. In the document, the principles of European safety and international co-operation in economy, science, technology and environmental protection were provided. The third part of the resolutions was bound with humanitarian problems; human rights were discussed upon in it as well. It was started to consider a protection of human rights as one of the most important elements of European safety and co-operation. Immediately after signing the Final Act of Helsinki Conference, the Soviet authorities absolutely ignored the provisions of its articles on human rights. A formation of dissident Helsinki groups began in occupied republics of the Soviet Union.
In autumn 1976, when Helsinki Group was formed in Lithuania, T. Venclova, together with priest Jesuit Karolis Garuckas, physicist Eitanas Finkelšteinas, poetess, former state prisoner Ona Lukauskaitė–Poškienė and former state prisoner Viktoras Petkus, was an incorporator and member of the said organization.
Many friends of Tomas Venclova visited this apartment. In the years 1960-61, meetings of the secret group for cultural studies were arranged there; artistic director K. Ginkas (now he lives in Moscow), poet and painter L. Gutauskas, professor of physics R. Katilius were members of the said group. Doctor of history J. Tumelis, literaturologist N. Kotrelyov (one of the most famous investigators of Russian “Silver Century”), poet, Nobel laureate J. Brodskij and many other persons visited this apartment as well.
At present, the Museum is oriented to visitors from the young generation. Abundant books by Tomas Venclova, published in Lithuania and abroad, are collected; collection of archival materials on other member of their family (such as M. Račkauskas, K. Vairas – Račkauskas, M. Cvirkienė) as well as on the political and literary activities of T. Venclova (his contacts with J. Brodskij, Cz. Milosz and so on) is in progress.
The Museum arranges literary evenings for Vilnius community. The Museum co-operates with Lithuanian Institute of Literature and Folklore as well as higher and secondary schools of Lithuania.