Some museums have such a fascinating history that they become exhibits themselves. This is exactly the case of the Alka Samogitian Museum. Officially, the museum was founded in 1932. The first exhibit received by the museum as recorded in its ledger was the wooden sculpture of Saint John of Nepomuk created in 1849. Ever since the first days from opening, the museum collected everything that was related to the Samogitian history and culture. In the beginning, the exhibits were placed in three or four modest rented rooms. However, even back then, the museum attracted many people and over 5000 tourists visited it within the first two years. The Samogitians enthusiastically decided to collect the money and construct a new building for the museum. Around 15 thousand of Lithuanian Litas were collected. Pranas Genys, the first Director of the museum and the biggest enthusiast in this endeavor, fondly remembers those days: “Many people made fun of those who wanted to build a museum in Telšiai. They said nobody needed a museum and it would only be a waste of money...” At the beginning, the construction works still lacked funding and the museum became indebted to its creditors in the amount of 22 thousand Lithuanian Litas. The Director himself donated his entire one year’s salary. People from all over the country donated timber, gravel and metal beams for overlays while the students from Telšiai Vocational Training School made the windows for the museum... Famous Lithuanians, such as Oskaras Milašius, Kipras Petrauskas, Liudas Gira, Petras Vaičiūnas and others, also made financial contributions.
The results were awe-inspiring. The museum moved to its new premises in 1937. This building was the only new museum built during the interwar period in the provincial Lithuania. The Alka Samogitian Museum became one of the most dynamic centers of Samogitian culture within several years, even though until 1939 its staff consisted of just two persons: the director and the cleaning lady.
In 1940, the Soviets started nationalizing the manors and bringing the paintings, sculptures, books, valuable documents and furniture from the Tyszkiewicz, Ogiński, Plater, Šuazelis, Gorskis and other manors to the Telšiai Museum. These exhibits still comprise the largest part of the museum’s art collection. When Lithuania was plunged into the Second World War, the Director Pranas Genys did not leave the museum unattended even for a day. He hid some of the most valuable exhibits right in the museum and trusted some of them to the villagers for safekeeping. Director Genys was fired in 1945 by the Soviets and was told to retreat from Telšiai despite his success in preserving the exhibition of the museum during the entire war.
In 1948, the museum was renamed to Telšiai Local History Museum. It regained its historical name of the Alka Samogitian Museum only in 1988.
This is the most important museum in Samogitia as it thoroughly presents the unique historical development of this ethnographic region and introduces the nature, everyday life and cultural heritage of the Samogitian people.