Edvard Beneš’s personal items now part of National Museum’s collections

Photo: archive of National Museum

Personal items belonging to the second Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš and his wife Hana, including the late president’s shaving kit and walking stick, have become part of the collection of the Czech National Museum in Prague. The items were donated to the museum by Hana Benešová’s relatives, who live in the United States.

Photo: archive of National Museum
The National Museum received some 70 items that belonged to Edvard Beneš and his wife, including a tea set given to the couple by the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.

The Czech Minister of Culture and the head of the National Museum received the inheritance at the Czech Embassy in Washington on Thursday from the hands of the great granddaughter of Hana Benešová’s brother, Regina Pohlová, who emigrated to the United States in 1986. She says it won’t be easy to part with the items, which have become part of her life:

“My mom grew up with her aunt Hana Benešová. She was actually called Hana, after her. Since the Beneš couple didn’t have any children, they were very close to my family.

“These items really mean a great deal to us and we still use many of them today. For instance when my boys are ill, we would use the president’s handkerchiefs to cool their foreheads. They are really of very high quality.

“So we have really been surrounded by these things, but at the same time we are happy that they will be displayed in the museum and return to the Czech nation, because that’s where they belong.”

Photo: archive of National Museum
The ceremony at the Czech Embassy in Washington was accompanied by a small exhibition showcasing Hana Benešová’s fabulous outfits. Miroslava Burianová, the curator of the National Museum’s fashion collections, says they have been preserved in excellent condition:

“We are showcasing her fur coat, which was one of her favourite items. Then there is an evening gown, which she wore as the first lady, and a night gown, an item from her private life.

“I think no one had ever seen Hana Benešová in a night gown, expect perhaps the president himself. She really made sure she looked like a lady from very early morning. There is also a traditional Bulgarian coat, which she probably received as a gift.”

Photo: archive of National Museum
Head of the National Museum Michal Lukeš says that until now, there have been very few items in Czech museum collections related to the second Czechoslovak president and his wife:

“We have had almost no items belonging to Hana Benešová in our collections. The objects we have received are all the more valuable because of their personal nature, because they were really used by president Beneš. They are really his iconic items, such as his shaving kit or his hat.”

The heritage of the second Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš and his wife Hana should go on display at the National Museum in Prague in November as part of an exhibition dedicated to the 20th century.