Museum of Literature opens in Prague
After nearly seven decades, the National Literature Memorial has left its premises in Prague’s Strahov Monastery and moved to its new headquarters in the district of Bubeneč. Last week it opened to the public under the name Museum of Literature.
The National Literature Memorial was established in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and for nearly 70 years it was located in the Strahov Monastery. After the building was returned to the Premonstratensian monks, the institution started looking for new premises.
A few years ago, it acquired the so-called Third Pestchek Villa located in close proximity to the city’s Stromovka Park, built by the wealthy Jewish family in 1930.
After extensive renovation, it opened to the public under the new name of Museum of Literature. Along with the name the institution also introduced a new concept of exhibiting its many valuable items.
Zdeněk Freisleben is the museum’s long-time director:
“We wanted to create a museum that would meet present-day needs and would be open and interactive. That’s why we came up with the idea of what we call a non-permanent exhibition, with the exhibits continually changing, so the exhibition has a different character each time.”
Indeed, over the nearly 70 years of its existence, the National Literature Memorial amassed a huge number of items, which cannot all be displayed at once. Moreover, some of the rare manuscripts can only be showcased for a limited period of time.
“We have over seven million collection items, from literary ones, such as manuscripts, letters, archival records and books, to art objects, such as the collection of Jiří Karásek from Lvovice. The museum has three departments: art collections, a literary archive and a library, but all of them are closely interconnected.”
The new permanent exhibition, called The Unread World, is housed on the building’s ground floor and charts Czech literature from the national revival until 1989.
It focuses on some of the greatest Czech authors, such as the Romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha or the graphic artist and writer Josef Váchal, but also reflects some of the traditional literary themes, such as the national revival or samizdat.
The archival materials, manuscripts and books are supplemented by works by contemporary audiovisual artists. There is also a digital catalogue with expanding information and a special children's guide.
The first short-term exhibition in the new Museum of Literature presents books from the annual Most Beautiful Czech Books competition, says Mr. Freisleben:
“The competition presents not only Czech but also foreign books, focusing on the evolution of book culture and on aesthetics.
“We are also preparing an exhibition dedicated to Karel Teige, a great representative of Czech avant-garde, which should also be very interesting.”
In addition to the exhibition space, visitors to the new Museum of Literature can also use its study rooms, research facilities, workshop for children and a hall for accompanying programmes. When the weather permits, they can also enjoy the vast garden that surrounds the villa.