Laura Formanek, Director of Marketing & Communications for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library provided my mom and me a guided tour while on a press trip to this wonderful city. I was seeking art for an article for Senior News & Times and I was not disappointed.
The first thing we saw when we entered this amazingly beautiful building was the Czech chandelier made of glittering and sparking Czech glass. We had just missed the perfume bottle exhibit. “There were over 600 Czech Companies creating glass perfume,” Laura said.
`While we missed the boat on the Bohemian Boudoir: Czech Vanity Glass, we landed just in time to see Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works which will be on display until October 2, 2016. I was amazed to find I really enjoyed this exhibit. I usually consider myself more of a Van Gogh kind of girl, but Warhol’s work was quite interesting and expressive of the times he lived in. What was fascinating was learning that he had thought he was Czech and after speaking with someone who was, he learned he was really a descendant of the Slovakian Mountain area.
The timely exhibit Faces of Freedom, the Czech and Slovak Journey hits home because like the brochure points out, “It’s everyone’s story.”
Laura said, “We are focusing on freedom and human dignity and relating to American life, it applies to all.”
While all of the information about time, WWII, and life under communist rule from 1968-1989 was fascinating, one scene has a punch impact to me. There is a secret police car with a street scene and you hear a whisper, “Get into the car.”
I could feel the hair on the back of my neck rise. I don’t think I appreciate the freedoms I have enough and this was a great reminder. The good news was that the end to communism was non-violent. “They call it the velvet revolution, it was peaceful.”
The immigration story of many Czechs and Slovaks coming to America comes to life for youngsters through the eyes of Mana a child who immigrated to the US in the 1920’s. Second graders were treated to visits this past school year and learned through Mana’s story.
Last year the museum had visitors from 37 different countries and 46-47 states. “Lot’s of visitors are looking for family history,” Laura said. “In 1995 we had three presidents, President Clinton, the Slovak President and President of the Czech Republic. They came for the dedication of the museum.”
One theme that has rolled through my visit to Cedar Rapids is how the flood of 2008 changed the face of this city. Laura said while it destroyed many things in the museum, it also opened up opportunity for new display space as they revamped the museum after the flood. It is easy to forget the power of nature and the devastation is can wrought.
I loved this museum and really liked the Czech and Slovak costumes and the gift shop which had amazing jewelry. In the gift shop I did see some of the beautiful Czech glass, but all I walked away with was a present for my granddaughter, lucky girl!
For more information about the museum, log onto http://www.ncsml.org/visit-ncsml/.C