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Life and Times of Marija and Jurgis Šlapeliai Captured in Photographs

Marija and Jurgis Šlapeliai made a huge positive impact on Lithuanian culture. Jurgis Šlapelis (1876-1941) was known as a linguist, professor, translator, lexicographer, publisher, and a culture and society activist. His wife Marija Piaseckaitė-Šlapelienė (1880-1977) was not only a soloist of the first Lithuanian opera – so to say, our first Birutė – but also the owner of a Lithuanian bookshop with a decades-long history, as well as an active defender of “Lithuanianness”.

Marija and Jurgis Šlapeliai House-Museum is situated in Pilies street in a 17-18th century house with arched 15th century cellars and one of the tiniest inner courts in the old town. The bookshop that used to be in Dominikonų street was reconstructed at the museum. Under strict conditions of conspiracy, it was nevertheless open and selling Lithuanian prints during five-times-recurring occupation of Vilnius. Museum funds boast a vast collection of exhibits: personal belongings, pieces of furniture, books, heaps of letters and photographs capturing life and times of the family, their kindred and society from the end of the 19th century till nowadays. Some of them are displayed in museum’s memorial rooms.

Most of the photos were collected by Marija Šlapelienė who definitely had a drive in museum-like stuff and managed to not only collect and preserve things with care but also to minutely record all the available information. Nearly each photograph has a handwritten record on its back side with information on where, when and with whom the picture was taken along with comments about kinship or other related facts.

Another huge bulk of photographs enriched museum collections after a 99-years-old Šlapeliai daughter Gražutė passed away. A share amount of the old photographs returned to Lithuania from the far-away United States. Capturing moments in lives of their three children – Laimutė Šlapelytė-Graužinienė (1906-1988), Gražutė Šlapelytė-Sirutienė (1909-2009), and Skaistutis Šlapelis (1919-1961) – and their family members, it makes a nice account of over a century-long time span.

Unknown Photographer

Marija Piaseckaitė (Šlapelienė) with Parents and Brothers


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