Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Field Trip: Cedar Rapids

The recent flooding in the Midwest has sadly affected a major landmark in Slavic America – the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Set up as a local historical institution to document the area’s Czechoslovak immigration, the museum was recognized in 1992 by Congress as a national institution. A new landmark museum and library building was inaugurated in 1995, with US President Bill Clinton, Czech President Vaclav Havel and Slovak President Michal Kovac in attendance.

Founded in 1974, the museum collection includes Czech and Slovak folk art and costumes, fine art, political history materials, maps and military objects, and a Czech immigrant’s house from 1880 was moved to the museum’s grounds, restored and opened to the public. The library includes a wide variety of books and archival materials about Czech and Slovak history and culture.

Some of the museum’s collection was able to be stored safely before the flood hit, but the scope of the flooding was unanticipated and the museum ended up under 15 feet of water. In Cedar Rapids, some 25,000 out of a population of 120,000 have been left homeless.
Metropolis has more information about damage to the museum as well as to other Cedar Rapids architectural landmarks. Radio Praha also has an article, with audio.

The Czech government has announced it
will donate $1 million towards restoring the museum, and the museum has also established a Flood Relief Fund to help towards its recovery efforts. Gifts may be made online at the museum’s website, at any Wells Fargo Bank location in the US or by mailing a check to: National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 30 Sixteenth Avenue SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404.

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