Prague City Hall Council approves Museum of 20th Century Memory

Stacheldrahtzäune - ostnaté dráty (Foto: Kristýna Maková)

Councillors at Prague City Hall unanimously voted in favour of creating a Museum of 20th Century Memory in the Czech capital on Monday. The plan is to provide the country with an equivalent to renowned twentieth century museums abroad such as the Topography of Terror in Berlin or the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk.

Hana Marvanová-Kordová,  photo: Jana Přinosilová / Czech Radio
The museum will depict key events connected with the establishment, existence and eventual fall of totalitarian regimes in Czechoslovakia and dozens of civic organisations have already offered their support for the project.

Councillor Hana Kordová Marvanová, who is the author of the proposal, says that there are many examples from which one can draw inspiration.

“We would like to create this museum according to successful examples in international metropolises such as the Warsaw Rising Museum in Poland, the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk, or Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.”

Historian Dr. Petr Blažek, who is being suggested as one of the museum’s seven board members, believes these foreign examples have shown that such an institution can draw large audiences, if it is established correctly.

“I hope that the museum’s foundation goes well and that a fitting building is selected. That is very important.

"It should be a generous space. Not an artificial substitute, but a quality museum, which will use multimedia devices that are available today in combination with three dimensional objects.”

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková,  Radio Prague International
According to Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, the museum will offer an interactive exposition that makes use of modern technologies.

As far as the location is concerned, Mrs. Kordová Marvanová says that the city will not construct a new building for the museum. Rather, a property already owned by City Hall shall be selected to house the institution.

“Of course expensive structures have been built for this purpose in other countries, but I do not think that is realistic at the moment. Prague has enough buildings which could be used.

“After this institution is officially entered into the register, it will initiate a tender for architects and historians to propose what the museum should look like.

"We do have some ideas, but we do not want this to be decided just by the Council. Instead, we intend to leave this matter to experts.”

Statue of Soviet marshal Ivan Konev in Prague 6,  photo: Anton Kaimakov
Petr Blažek admits that he already has many ideas on what objects could be displayed.

One of them is the controversial statue of Soviet marshal Ivan Konev in Prague 6, which many media commentators recently described as an example of how Czechs have still not come to terms with their communist past.

“I think that it would be better if this discussion around the Konev statue took place in a museum, where it would be accompanied by contemporary film recordings of its unveiling [in 1980], ], as well as with a factography that would document marshal Konev’s personality in more detail.”

While much still remains to be decided, Mrs. Kordová Marvanová says she hopes that the museum will be in operation by the beginning of the next municipal elections in 2022.

The idea is yet to be approved by the Prague City Assembly on Thursday next week. However, given that the council represents Prague’s majority coalition, it seems likely that it will pass.