National Museum

One of the few words I learned in Czech was Národní, meaning national, since there are lots of “national” things in Prague.

As a non-nationalist I am not terribly enthusiastic about this. I tend to agree with Karl W. Deutsch (1912-1992), who was born in Prague and studied here until the Nazis seized power. He then moved to America and became a professor at MIT, Yale and Harvard. In his book Nationalism and its alternatives, he wrote that a nation is a group of people united by a mistaken view of the past and a hatred of their neighbors. (This statement is often quoted in various forms; I don’t know which is the original.)

Anyway, in Prague there is a National Theater (Národní divadlo) which is on the National Street (Národní ulice), and of course there is also a National Museum (Národní muzeum).

I didn’t visit the National Museum in 2011, thinking I could go there any old time when the weather wasn’t so good, so it’s still on my list for a future visit. In the meantime, the main (‘historical’) museum building at Wenceslas Square was closed for several years for badly needed repairs and reconstruction work. It re-opened in October 2018.

The museum website used to list various problems that have arisen since this building was first opened in 1891, including damage by a German bomb in 1945 and machine-gun fire by Russian soldiers in 1968, followed by damage during the construction of the Metro station (line A) in 1978.

The website also used to say (but doesn’t any more): “The greatest threat to the building was probably the thoughtless and insensitive construction of the so-called North-South Highway which was taken right through the centre of the city, the two sides of which embraced the National Museum itself. The paradox is that the opening ceremony for this highway in 1978 was held in the Pantheon of the National Museum. The building has been cut off from Wenceslas Square by the lower lanes of the motorway, both as regards communications and also visibly, and has begun to suffer from the excessive noise, dangerously high level of dust and constant vibrations.”

This is the same motorway which cuts off the State Opera from the rest of the city.

The museum website noted, at the time, that “the problem of the motorway has not been solved satisfactorily yet.”

GPS 50° 4’43.30″ North; 14°25’50.80″ East

My photo in this post is from 2011. I revised the text in 2019.

See more posts on Prague, Czech Republic.

3 thoughts on “National Museum”

  1. Very interesting Don! Reference to Karl W. Deutsch’s view of what “a nation” is led me to skim through, again, “Fifty Years of Europe” by Jan Morris, 1997. Morris’ book inspired me to visit a few countries in Eastern Europe for the first time, in 1999. A revelation in many ways. For unknown reasons, I never got to the Czech Republic then, nor since. Think I was reluctant to visit it then because Prague was such a popular tourist destination.
    Thanks for an inspiring read, as usual!

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