Regional Exhibition reaches across Czech-Austrian border

The exhibition in Freistadt, photo: CTK

An exhibition spanning two south Bohemian and two Austrian towns is just about to get underway, with various religious and industrial venues hosting works that point to the shared roots on both sides of the border. As part of the extensive project, a number of historical buildings have been painstakingly renovated and will be open to the public for the first time.

The exhibition in Freistadt,  photo: CTK
This is the first Regional Exhibition that reaches across the once heavily guarded border between southern Bohemian and Upper Austria. After some five years of preparations, the towns of Český Krumlov and Vyšší Brod in Bohemia and Freistadt and Bad Leonfelden across the border in Austria will open a number of exhibits that highlight the common and sometimes divided history and culture of this border region.

The deputy mayor of Český Krumlov, Jitka Zikmundová, who helped organize the exhibition, says that the idea did not come from Czech institutions:

“It was an initiative from the Austrian side. They have a lot of experience with large-scale regional exhibits, which they have been organizing since the 1960s. They approached us in 2007 and told us that this time they want to reach across the border, and we were happy to accept this invitation.”

The monastery in Vyšší Brod,  photo: CTK
Both sides made substantial investments in the project. The Austrian institutions have spent around 450 million crowns, while the Czechs invested about a tenth of that amount. The regional governments are hoping that the project will leave a lasting impact on the region, since the money was used not only to spruce up the venues, but also to improve surrounding infrastructure and roads.

Most of the exhibit locations were reconstructed specifically for the project. The Austrian town of Freistadt renovated a defunct brewery, which is holding an exhibit of city life and trade, and where the opening ceremony is taking place on Thursday. Český Krumlov undertook a large-scale reconstruction of a neo-Romanesque synagogue, which will open in May with a photography show entitled “4 photographers, 2 countries, 1 region”.

The other thematic exhibits will be held at the old hospital in Bad Leonfelden, the monastery in Vyšší Brod and the regional museum in Český Krumlov. Jitka Zikmundová feels that there the project sends a strong message:

“I personally think that through this exhibit we will be able to show that this region was never divided, we just had an unpleasant fifty or forty-year break in relations.”

The organizers are hoping that some of the sites that were renovated for this project will become important centers of culture in the region once the project ends. The town hall at Český Krumlov has particularly high hopes for the early 20th century synagogue:

The synagogue in Český Krumlov,  photo: CTK
“After almost a hundred years, the synagogue will regain its place in the life of the city, thanks to the regional exhibition. Synagogues were always places of cultural and community life, so once the exhibit is over, we would like it to become one of the cultural institutions of Český Krumlov.”

The Regional Exhibition Southern Bohemia - Upper Austria will run until the beginning of November.

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