The 2002 Flood Brought Some Positive Changes to Czech Museums and Galleries

Prague's Lesser Quarter hit by floods

It took Czech museums and galleries more than a year and a half to recover from the devastating flood of 2002. On Thursday last week, one of the last damaged museums reopened its complete exposition. On the same day, the National Museum in Prague introduced an exhibition illustrating the damage caused by the flood.

Prague's Lesser Quarter hit by floods
Believe it or not, I am in the busiest part Prague, at the Wenceslas square. I have come here, to the National Museum in Prague, to see the opening of an exhibition called Heritage Drowned. I asked Mr.Michal Lukes, the head of The National Museum in Prague, to introduce the exhibition.

"This is not a classical museum exhibition, we're showing boards with pictures of museum and gallery buildings damaged by the 2002 flood. There are also texts giving some information about it. The idea arose right after the flood, because we thought it would be good to document and show to the public what was happening in these cultural institutions. These events were not granted much attention then, of course, lives were more important. But it was also the cultural heritage which was under a big threat. The damage is huge, not only to the collections but also to the buildings, many of which are protected."

The flood affected about thirty buildings belonging to galleries or museums and caused a damage of about 50 millions Euro. Ironically the exhibition Drowned Heritage unintentionally became part of a bigger project of the National Museum in Prague called Water and Life. The 2002 flood made organisers modify the original idea of the exhibition, they decided to show water as a devastating element as well.

However Mr.Lukes as well as his colleagues believe that the devastating flood also brought positive changes.

"In many cases the huge damage increased the pace of reconstruction and innovation, because problems had to be solved immediately and not postponed again and again. For example damaged old equipment had to be replaced by modern machines. I call this the German post war syndrome - if you completely destroy something you have to build it from scratch, so that's what happened here. The flood also revealed the willingness of many people who were helping out as much as they could. I think that the social aspect of the floods was positive."

Together with experts from abroad, the Czech Republic developed new methods of saving and rescuing museum exhibits. And as Mr.Lukes explains, the Czech Republic could now advise other countries if similar problems appear.