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Czech & Slovak Museum & Library shares stories of freedom

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The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the premier institution preserving Czech and Slovak heritage in the United States.

Costume exhibit, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Photo: Group Tour Media/David Hoekman Costume exhibit, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

“We are excited to host groups at the museum,” said president and CEO Gail Naughton. “There are a variety of things to see and do including exhibits in four galleries, guided tours of the Immigrant Home, short films in the theater, exhibits and maps in the library, and of course, shopping in the museum store. Visitors give us a 98 percent approval rating for their experience and often remark, ‘it’s so much more than I expected.’ You don’t need to be Czech or Slovak to enjoy the history and culture of these ethnic immigrant groups that make our nation great.”

Carrie Kriz, the visitor services coordinator, is in charge of booking group tours.

“Visitors entering the museum are dazzled by our stunning 8-foot Czech crystal chandelier,” Kriz said. “Whenever families or school groups walk through the front doors, a collective ‘Wow!’ can be heard as they gaze upward and stand mesmerized. Taking pictures of guests standing underneath the sparkling beauty has become part of our daily ritual.”

“Faces of Freedom: The Czech and Slovak Journey” presents the story of Czechs and Slovaks through the world wars, life under communism and the pursuit of a better life in the U.S. The 7,000-square-foot exhibit holds artifacts, interactive elements and oral histories. Included is a replica of the steerage section of a steam ship that brought immigrants to the United States. Visitors can view a Tatra secret police car and experience what it was like to stand in Prague’s Wenceslaus Square in the Velvet Revolution.

Immigrant Home, located just outside the main museum and library building, was the home of five generations of the Sleger family beginning in the 1890s. The family came to the United States from Bohemia.

Czech crystal chandelier, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Photo: Group Tour Media/David Hoekman Czech crystal chandelier, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

“Folks really love getting a personal, guided tour of our 1880s immigrant house,” Kriz said. “It’s like stepping back in time and usually stirs up fond memories. Visitors enjoy reminiscing and learning about a piece of the past.”

On view through Oct. 2 is “Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works.” Andy Warhol, the son of Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants from a remote village in far eastern Slovakia, was one of the most documented artists of the 20th century.

“Amadeus: Costumes for the Obsessed and Vengeful” runs from Aug. 13 to Dec. 31 and features costumes and props from the 1985 film Amadeus. The film won eight Academy Awards, including best costume design by Czech designer Theodor Pisteck.

“Woodcuts by Marek Hofman” will be on view from September to January 2017. Hofman, a Czech artist, has created a series of colorful wood block prints of Mozart’s operas.

“Czech Travel Posters from the Lowry Collection” runs from November to February 2017.

From April to October 2017, the museum and library presents “Dale Chihuly Venetians: The George R. Stroemple Collection.”

Several packages are available for group visits.

Motorcoaches may park and unload in the roundabout circle drive in the front of the building.

For more information, call 319-362-8500 or visit ncsml.org.

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About Author

David Hoekman, Managing Editor

David Hoekman is a former newspaperman on a quest to tell the stories of the world’s various places and cultures in compelling ways. He especially enjoys learning and writing about the business of group travel. His favorite destination is wherever he is going next and his travel tip is to always pack an emergency granola bar or two.

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