Václav Havel Library actively promoting late president's legacy

Photo: Václav Havel Library

Among the organizations keeping the legacy of the country’s first post-communist president alive is the Václav Havel Library, which was established back in 2004 but has boosted its activities since he passed away in December last year. This year the Václav Havel Library began expanding – starting the process of opening a branch in the United States. Masha Volynsky reports.

Photo: Václav Havel Library
The first presidential library in the Czech Republic, and possibly the onlye in Europe, the Václav Havel Library houses an extensive archive of Mr. Havel’s works, his correspondence and writings about him, as well as running frequent literary evenings, panel discussions, exhibits and other events. The library’s director, Marta Smolíková, says it offers a twist on the American model:

"The institution was inspired by the presidential libraries in the United States, but the character of the Czech Vaclav Havel Library is a bit different. Here he was not only the president, he was much more famous as a writer, as an individual and as a dissident."

The library was founded eight years ago by, among others, Mr. Havel’s wife Dagmar and his long-time friends Karel Schwarzenberg, who is now Czech foreign minister, and Miloslav Petrusek, a well-known sociologist who passed away this summer.

Marta Smolíková,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
The institution has boosted its activities in the last year, organizing numerous events commemorating the life and work of the leader of the Velvet Revolution, and publishing, among other volumes, a full collection of Mr. Havel’s writing about theater. According to Marta Smolíková, public interest in his life and legacy is also on the rise:

"I’m very happy that there has been a lot of interest in Vaclav Havel as a person, as somebody who inspires others, in the past year, since his death. For this first anniversary of his death, many institutions and individuals have organized many different events in memory of Vaclav Havel."

This year, the library has also decided to promote the late playwright’s legacy abroad, establishing the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation in New York in May. The organization has an office there, but the final shape and location of the new American branch of the library has not yet been finalized.

Galerie Montmartre,  photo: Kristýna Maková
"There is still a lot of interest in Václav Havel in the United States. Quite a big series of events has been planned [in the U.S.] for the upcoming year, and it is much easier to operate there with a local institution. It will also provide a possibility to distribute materials and information throughout the United States and that part of the world. It is also an opportunity for fundraising, because the tradition of presidential libraries is much better understood there, and Vaclav Havel is known globally."

Most of the Vaclav Havel Library’s events are held in Prague’s Galerie Montmartre. However, if all goes according to plan the institution will in the future move to a far grander space in the Prague Castle district.