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Iowa History Daily: October 21 - National Czech & Slovak Museum

Iowa History Daily: On October 21, 1995, the decades-long efforts of the Czech American community of Cedar Rapids to preserve their distinct local heritage culminated in the dedication of the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library. With the leaders of the United States, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia on hand, over 7,000 gathered to celebrate Czech heritage in Iowa.

During 1974, a group of Cedar Rapids area residents descended from Czech immigrants came together to found the Czech Fine Arts Foundation. While the initial collection of artifacts and documents grew, the group opened an initial Czech Museum in a three-room house. Moving to the current site in 1981, the group continued to expand collections and added a 19th-century immigrant home to the location in 1983.

During the 1980s, the group started to add contributions from Slovak Americans, and adopted the current organizational name. Continued growth necessitated further construction, and in the early 1990s plans and fundraising for a new 16,000 sq. ft. space started to come together. By October of 1995, the building proved ready for dedication. U.S. President Bill Clinton, Czech President Václav Havel, and Slovakian President Michal Kováč presided over the ceremony.

During the Iowa flood of 2008, the Cedar River overflowed its banks, flooding the museum and library with 8 ft. of water and causing severe damage to the exhibitions and contents. Museum staff worked to remove two trucks full of museum and library material before the flood waters reached the space. After the flood, a temporary facility was opened at Lindale Mall. The museum's temporary home was moved in April 2010 to the Kosek Building at 87 Sixteenth Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids, built in 1910. In 2012, rebuilding and expansion efforts allowed the NCSML to reopen to the public. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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