Náprstkovo muzeum v nespojitém čase – aneb několik úvah nad osudy muzejní instituce v letech 1945 až 1946 / The Náprstek Museum at a distinct time – or some thoughts on the fates of the museum institution in 1945 to 1949

Pages 59-70
Journal of the National Museum. History Series | 2016/185/3-4

The Náprstek Museum of Asian, African and American cultures is not just part of the National Museum, but also one of the major domestic museum institutions. It is a unique institution in this field within the Czech environment for its focus on non-European ethnography in the context of Czech travel and research endeavours. The professional fates of this museum are characteristic or even represent a model for the Czech environment. In 1943, the museum which had been run by the state since the 1930s became part of the National Museum through an intervention by the occupying powers, and in 1949 they both became state institutions. The period 1945 to 1949 is thus very brief – but it is also a fascinating period of time when there was a state-owned Náprstek museum as a part of the National Museum, which sought out new applications and context in the exciting post-war period. The large number of preserved official files can be used to give a detailed reconstruction of both an ordinary day in the museum, this being particularly marked by an acute lack of practically everything needed for the day-to-day running of such an institution, and also the museum’s assistance in confiscating numerous valuable collections (ethnographies, books), etc. Similar observations can be made of activities undertaken when exhibiting began again (including the holding of a generously conceived exhibition on Chinese art), the attempt to establish itself in the post-war era as a profiled museum institution specialised in non-European ethnography and the evolution of collaboration with national scientific corporations (universities, the Oriental Institute, etc.). In many of these activities, the well-known Czech librarian, archivist and heraldist, Bohumír Lifka – then manager of the Náprstek Museum’s Library – played a major role. The planned adaption of the museum premises (from 1946) could have acquired fundamental importance, beginning with the bringing together of some of the objects held at the time. Thus, the Náprstek Museum remained in its original premises – and beginning in 1949 it had to come to terms with a completely new reality, now as a state institution, in the post-coup period with an ever growing authoritative social system.

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