Czech UNESCO listed documentary treasures go on show

Great Siege of Malta Map, photo: CTK

An exhibition showcasing items and documents from Czech collections recently listed on a UNESCO list of world documentary treasures has got underway in Prague. Visitors can see the Great Siege of Malta Map from the 16th century, the Kynžvart daguerreotype or items from composer Leoš Janáček’s archive.

Kynžvart daguerreotype,  photo: CTK
The Czech Republic currently boasts eight entries on the UNESCO Memory of the World list, including the Libri Prohibiti, a collection of periodicals of Czech and Slovak Samizdat from the communist era, or the collection of Czech Reformation medieval manuscripts.

New items on the prestigious list are currently on display at the National Technical Museum in Prague. One of them is the Kynžvart daguerreotype, a photographic image from 1839. Hynek Stříteský from the National Technical Museum says it symbolises the birth of the visual era:

“The daguerreotype is unique for several reasons. First of all, it was made by Daguerre himself. Before he presented his invention to the public, he donated this daguerreotype to the Austrian Chancellor Metternich and you can even see his written dedication to the politician. Another reason is that it belongs to one of the best preserved historical daguerrotypes in the world.”

Part of Leoš Janáček archive,  photo: CTK
Another Czech UNESCO World Heritage is the Leoš Janáček archive, a documentary collection covering the heritage of one of the greatest Czech composers. Jiří Zahrádka, a musicologist specializing on Janáček explains the importance of his archive:

“Leoš Janáček’s archive is really vast and complex. I think there is no other composer’s archive which would be so complete.

“We have I would say 95 percent of all his compositions, letters, documents and librettos. So the archive is unique not only for us but for the whole world.”

Great Siege of Malta Map,  photo: CTK
Among the items featuring in the archive is the only preserved manuscript of Janáček’s ballet Jenůfa, or letters from composer Gustav Mahler, and Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Another Czech listing on the UNESCO Memory of the World is one the Great Siege of Malta Maps by Giovanni Francesco Camocio. Three of these maps are in the possession of Malta, while the fourth was discovered at the Charles University map collection in Prague.

Bernadine Scicluna is a curator of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta:

“Today these Great Siege Maps, fortunately thanks to Charles University and the discovery by Josef Schiro, are a complete series which represents the final phases of the great siege that took place between May and September 1565.

The exhibition at Prague’s National Technical Museum is running until April 11.

“Today they are part of our collective memory and of our country’s heritage. They are of special, if not emotional significance to us Maltese, because they represent a turning point in our history.

“Back in the 16th century, conquering Malta meant achieving the conquest of the Mediterranean. Once it was in your hands, than you had access to Europe.”