NCSML Celebrates 25 Years as a National Museum and Library

NCSML Celebrates 25 Years as a National Museum and Library

Apr 01, 2020


by Meredith Hines-Dochterman | Director of Marketing & Communications, NCSML

It was 25 years ago that three presidents -- Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Michael Kovac of the Slovak Republic, and Bill Clinton of the United States -- came to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the dedication of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML). As we celebrate the Silver anniversary of the day we became a national institution, we’re also looking ahead to another milestone.

In 2024, the museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its conceptual founding in 1974 by a group of citizens and visionaries who established the Czech Fine Arts Foundation, Inc. The early master planners envisioned a national museum and library that would welcome people of all ethnic backgrounds. They wanted all visitors to be at home in the NCSML, and to learn from the rich stories of immigration from the Czech and Slovak settlers.

Western Fraternal Life has been a significant partner in NCSML’s history. The support of Western has been instrumental in building a national museum and library that provides world-class exhibits, informative programs, and engaging activities for people of all ages and backgrounds to help ensure that the stories and rich cultures of the Czechs and Slovaks is never lost. It is important that the NCSML be here for future generations to learn from, and we want to take this opportunity to thank you and share a bit about what’s happening at the NCSML.

We recently launched Czech Us Out, a podcast that brings our programs to a wider audience. Director of Programs, Teresa Stenstrup, took the lead on this endeavor, creating four episodes from our 2019 lineup of programs. We encourage you to visit and check them out today.

Heritage Caretakers of Moravia tells the story of the incredible women who wear and use folk art practices in their daily life.

We also introduced Huburt’s Night Owls, a program during which we extend operating hours to serve individuals with disabilities, specifically those on the autism spectrum. During this time, exhibits are modified, reducing stimuli in order to provide a sensory-friendly experience. Staff provide multi-sensory opportunities for learners who benefit from tactile experiences, and offer crafts and activities for young visitors.

Only four months into the new year and we have already hosted two exhibition openings. Heritage Caretakers of Moravia is currently on display in the Smith Gallery. This exhibit, presented through the eyes of Czech-American artist Sonya Darrow, tells the story of the incredible women who wear and use folk art practices in their daily life.

Our Artists as Activists exhibition examines how artists are inadvertently positioned to oppose the reigning doctrines. A great example can be found in the former Czechoslovakia where David Černý brought attention to the overpowering domination of the Soviet Union over a large swath of Central and Eastern Europe. Černý is one of eight contemporary artists featured in this exhibit, which is a new addition to the international art scene.

We’ll debut A Century of Robots: From Čapek to Now in May. The exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of Karel Čapek’s play, R.U.R., in 2020. Čapek (1890-1938) was a Czech writer, playwright, and critic best known for his science fiction works. R.U.R., which stands for Rossum's Universal Robots, marks the first time that the term “robot” was ever used.

It is fitting that the traveling exhibit Voices and Votes: Democracy in America will open to the public on July 4. When American revolutionaries waged a war for independence, they embraced a radical idea of establishing a government that entrusted the power of the nation not in a monarchy, but in its citizens. That great leap sparked questions that continue to affect Americans: who has the right to vote, what are the freedoms and responsibilities of citizens, and whose voices will be heard? Voices and Votes: Democracy in America will be a springboard for discussions about those very questions and how they are reflected in local stories.

In Her Father’s Eyes: A Slovak Childhood in the Shadow of the Holocaust is a moving exhibit about the short life of Kitty Weichherz, a Czechoslovakian girl born in the same year as Anne Frank. Told through the loving eyes of her surviving father, Kitty’s story paints a portrait of a young girl’s innocence in the face of increasing anti-Jewish sentiment on the eve of World War II. This exhibition opens September 1.

Jumping ahead to late October, we will host a new exhibit celebrating the Slovak Republic. Treasures of Slovakia: 1,000 Years of Slovak Culture, will include rare and significant artifacts on loan from the Slovak National Museum in Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Republic. Many of the items in this exhibition have never been seen in the U.S. before!

There’s always something happening at the NCSML. If you haven’t visited lately, we encourage you to do so and please mention your affiliation with Western Fraternal Life. We’d love to say thank you in person.

NCSML is located at 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. More information is at

Category: Czech Connection

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