Memory of Nations institutes to offer immersive exhibits on Czech 20th century history

For two decades, the Memory of Nations project has been collecting thousands of testimonies from eye-witnesses who lived through totalitarianism and war. The organisation is now setting up a web of institutes across the Czech Republic, which will offer visitors an immersive, multimedia experience of key moments in the country’s history. This Tuesday, it offered a sneak-peek into its new institute in Pardubice. To find out more about the project and what visitors can look forward to, I spoke to Martin Kroupa, the head of regional development for NGO Post Bellum which runs the Memory of Nations.

“We opened it just for one day. This is because due to the current epidemiological situation it is not possible to have it open every day. Hopefully, we will open fully during the spring of next year.

“The institute itself is a sort of modern type of museum that is based around eye-witness testimonies of the tragedies of the 20th century. So it’s not just a typical exhibition. Rather, it is a multimedia institute that gives visitors the opportunity to get a real feel for what it was like in the city during the Second World War.”

I read that the institute is the first of its kind in Central Europe.


And the tour is apparently very atmospheric. Could you describe in a bit more detail what it’s like?

“First of all, the visitors gather around [in a circle that the exhibition calls the “fireplace”], where the context of the Second World War is impressed on them. Then they each go their own way to explore the exhibition, using modern technology such as VR as well as sound and light design that is especially set up to accompany the testimony focused exhibition. These include the recorded memories of, for example, fighter pilots or resistance fighters active in Pardubice and Prague.”

Photo: Post Bellum

You are planning to open further institutes in Prague, Brno, and Olomouc, as well as in several other Czech cities. There are also plans for opening a Memory of Nations museum in Prague. Is each exhibition going to focus on something specific, for example the testimonies of people local to that area, or are they all going to be the same?

“They will be focused on local history, but in the context of the whole Czech Republic. This is because it is quite important to get the message across to local visitors, especially schoolchildren. The stories will be a mix of local and wider Czech history.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Memory of Nation project, which collects testimonies from people who lived through various episodes of Czech 20th century history. How many testimonies and archival documents have you gathered during that time? And are you currently focusing on some specific period?

“Yes, that’s true. Our collection is online and fully accessible via our website, so it’s quite unique in that it’s not like a typical archive.

“It contains 10,000 testimonies that we have managed to collect over the past two decades of our existence. Aside from the recordings, it also contains 10,000s of other archival materials and photographs.

“We always focus on the oldest [living] generation when we collect the testimonies. That means that we started with the veterans of WWII and Holocaust survivors. Now we are focusing on 1950s political prisoners. However, we have also already recorded other testimonies, for example from the time of the Velvet Revolution.

“Most of all, we focus on the experiences of people during Nazi and Communist totalitarian rule in our country. However, it isn’t just the Czech Republic. We also have branches in Miami, where we are focusing on collecting the oral histories from the war in Cuba. Last but not least, we are also collecting testimonies from Belarus.”

The average viewing time for the exhibition is estimated at 90 minutes. Further information about the institutes can be found here: