By Melissa Heintz
Public Affairs Specialist, IMLS
As an important part of the cultural community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library preserves Czech and Slovak heritage in America. The museum shares a close relationship with the Czech Village, an ethnic commercial district in the Cedar Rapids. Gail Naughton, president and CEO of the museum, and Bob Schaffer, a shop owner in the Czech Village, explain how the museum and village together enable local and national visitors taste every facet of the rich culture, with history, food, and shopping.
In 2008 a flood inundated ten square miles of Cedar Rapids, devestating the museum and village. It was a difficult time getting back into the buildings to see exhibitions destroyed and library collections soaked. But the museum, village, and affected Cedar Rapids neighborhoods left no doubt that the destroyed areas would be revitalized. It was a community effort during every step of the recovery, with members invited to participate in decisions about location, design, and other issues. In July 2012, the museum reopened, welcoming visitors from all over the country and all over the world. The neighborhood restaurants and shops were busier than ever, with record sales, showing that the community had indeed come back from the flood.
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library was one of 10 winners of the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for libraries and museums that are serving their communities in exceptional ways. Do you know of a museum or library that has made a difference? Nominations are now being accepted for the 2014 National Medal. Nomination Forms must be mailed and postmarked by October 15, 2013.