Survey of Czech and Slovak Historic Sites and Monuments in America
Miroslav RechcíglCzechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU), in cooperation with other major Czech-American organizations, associated with the National Heritage Commission, has initiated efforts toward preserving Czech cultural heritage in America. The project has been recognized and fully endorsed by the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad.
This effort was prompted by the concern for the sad state of Czech historical monuments and memorabilia, as well as for the continuous loss of historically important archival materials regarding the life and work of the Czech immigrants and their descendants. Although the focus is on Czech memorabilia, considering the frequent difficulties in separating Czech from Slovak materials, the relevant Slovak and Czechoslovak materials will also be included. The organizers eventually hope to enlarge the project to cover all Slovak material with cooperation of the Slovak-American organizations.
The first phase will focus on information available at and provided by individual societies and organizations. In this connection, most of the Czech-American ethnic societies have been contacted, as were numerous American institutions, libraries and document centers. The organizers obviously cannot know of all relevant organizations and are therefore asking the Czech-American and Slovak-American public for assistance and advice. We are particularly interested in learning about the less known organizations, their addresses and suitable contact.
Furthermore, we are interested in information concerning archival and documentary material held in private hands which are not generally known. These types of materials are lost continuously, and without anybody knowing about it. The immigrant families, for generations, have kept old Czech books, almanacs, anniversary publications, calendars, posters, photos, letters and other family treasures which have reminded them of their old country and which they have held in great reverence. As the old generations die, the subsequent generations lose interest not only in the Czech language but also in their own family heritage. Since the grandparents' material is written in a strange language and has presumably no monitory value, they simply toss it away. This is of course a great irreplaceable loss. Many of these publications are long out of print and cannot be found even in the Naprstek Museum in Prague, not to mention archival material of which there was only one copy. Some of the material may contain important letters and other documents relating to the life and activities of an individual who played a vital role in the Czech-American community or on behalf of the Czech Republic. We would thus welcome any information concerning material of this sort, with the address and the name of the keeper. We would be willing to provide some small financial aid for preparing this inventory.
Besides information about publications and archival material, we are interested in receiving information about historic sites and monuments, e.g., statues, memorial plaques, buildings, halls, churches, cemeteries, parks, etc., which are related in some way to history of Czech immigrants in the US. Memorabilia of this type are scattered throughout the US, and no survey has ever been made of them. Individuals hardly ever even know about history relicts in their own neighborhood. Most of these monuments are in sad shape of disrepair which, without some repair or restoration, will be completely destroyed.
The initial purpose of this effort is to simply gather information. In the subsequent phases of this endeavor we shall start serious discussions and negotiations with various government agencies on both sides of the Atlantic concerning the transfer and storage of the materials for safe keeping and scholarly research, or the restoration of a specific object.
To simplify your response, we would be pleased to send you questionnaires that have been prepared for this purpose. Apart from the requested information we would also welcome volunteers to help us gather information in particular localities, cites and states.
In particular, we would welcome volunteers who would help us search the Internet for possible web sites relating so Czech and Slovak-American historic sites and monuments, festivals, archives, etc.
Contact: Please send the relevant information, concrete suggestions and comments to the Project Coordinator, SVU President, Dr. Mila Rechcigl, 1703 Mark Lane, Rockville, MD 20852; tel./FAX: (301) 881-7222; e-mail: email@example.com