The National Museum in Prague has made its biggest acquisition over the past fifty years, acquiring more than 700 000 documents and other items from the Museum of the Workers’ Movement. Among the new possessions are valuable objects of art as well as curiosities, such as figure carved out of bread by Czechoslovak president Antonín Zápotocký. I spoke to the National Museums’ curator Marek Junek about the new acquisitions.
“It’s a big collection that documents the history of the Czech lands in the 19th and 20th century. It documents the political, cultural and economic history of our region. In these collections we can find objects that belonged to Czechoslovak presidents, such as Klement Gottwald and Anonín Zápotocký. We can find documents concerning the working class movement. And we can also find a lot of art objects, some painting and sculptures. It’s a really huge collection and of course it’s a very good source for photography, posters and so on.”
What are some of the most valuable items among the acquisitions?
“One of the best things that we have received is a pen which was used in May 1945 by the leader of the German troops to sign capitulation. We can also see the manuscript of a book by Julius Fučík, a Czech journalist who died during the Second World War. And we can find paintings by Emil Filla, sculptures by Jan Štrursa and Max Švabinský and others.”
Why didn’t the National Museum acquire these items earlier, right after the fall of Communism?
“After the Velvet Revolution, after 1989, nobody wanted these items because they were seen as relicts of the Communist regime and the National Museum refused the collection. This was the reason why the Museum of the Workers’ Movement was established and they saved all the documents. I think 25 years after the Velvet Revolution it is the right time to take the collection to the National Museum.”
What are your plans with the acquisitions? Are you going to display them any time soon?
“We are going will display these items within five to six years. First we have to move them from Prague to Terezín to the depositary of the National Museum and of course at first we have to do an inventory and undertake some restoration work. Only then we can use the collection for our exhibitions. But I have to say we would like to offer the items to researchers in just a few months’ time, so they will be able to study the objects in the first half of the year 2015.”