NCSML – Redux

A few years ago, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, IA was devastated by a flood.  The collection had to be saved from water damage, and the building moved to a new location.  I had been impressed with the previous iteration and was looking forward to the new version.  Ironically, I visited during a downpour.

National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, IA

National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, IA

The new parking garage is under the building, so I did not get wet.  The building as a whole was very well designed to provide ample space to grow.  I don’t even remember the library from my last visit.  Now, the library has plenty of room for stacks, reading tables, and a large reference desk.  Even on a dark, rainy day, the library was bright.  Researchers will be very happy in that space.  

The museum had two main exhibits and two smaller exhibits of photography and videos of the building move.  The first main exhibit is the permanent exhibit:  Faces of Freedom:  The Czech and Slovak Journey.  The exhibit recreates the steamer ship steerage sections and communist watch tours that Czechs and Slovaks endured when they escaped/immigrated to the United States.  Honestly, I was disappointed in the exhibit.  The space used is so large that I had difficulty navigating the journey.  I could “see ahead,” which dissipated some of the emotion.  

Faces of Freedom

Faces of Freedom

At the World War I museum in Kansas City, you walk through replicas of trenches and then move to an open space.  I wished I could walk through a replica of a town street with the police car, the communist watch tour, and the shop windows with the porcelain.  Or a house with the toys and music and everyday life scenes.  Then moving into the steamship and seeing the videos of the immigrant stories would have been more profound.  Large space is a blessing and a curse.  Since Faces of Freedom is a permanent exhibition, the curatorial staff may already have a game plan to refresh the space and stories over time.   

Intro panel to Celebration!  Rituals and Revelry of Life exhibition.

Intro panel to Celebration! Rituals and Revelry of Life exhibition.

The killer exhibit is the Celebration!  Rituals and Revelry of Life on loan from the National Museum of the Czech Republic.  As we saw with the Columbus Museum of Art, unique, international exhibits do come to regional and local museums.  NCSML’s mission is to connect people with Czech and Slovak history and culture, so an exhibition from a Czech Republic museum is logical.  More exciting is the length of the exhibition:  10 months.  People have plenty of time to visit and re-visit.  The exhibit itself takes you through a year of Czech and Slovak festivals with historic and current artifacts.  You can see more items in my Summer of Museums Pinterest page.  Below are an example of an artifact and a label.

St. Lucia Costume

St. Lucia Costume


St. Lucia Label

St. Lucia Label











The exhibition lacked a book.  Publishing is expensive.  A small booklet summarizing the various festivals and costumes would have been nice.  My family did not celebrate all the holidays.  Traditions also adapted to America.  My dad remembered the Christmas carp in the bathtub.  When I was little, my grandparents purchased an already dead carp.  Live fish are hard to find during the midwest winter.  

Walking through a year of festivals was very enjoyable.  The combination of photographs, artifacts, and well-written labels attracted visitors and kept their attention.  You could view the exhibition multiple times and still miss something.  

Survival is an underlying theme of the museum:  the survival of the Czech and Slovak people under imperial and communist regimes, the survival of Czech and Slovak culture & language, and the survival of the museum after the great flood.  The Faces of Freedom permanent exhibition, the oral history projects, and the relationships with Czech and Slovak institutions also provide a game plan for other ethnic history museums that are struggling to remain relevant. 



VS Cyberclass Update – Heirloom Christmas Sampler

Yes, I am woefully behind, but Phoebe demands to sleep on my chest for part of the evening.  Cuts into stitching time.  I wanted to catch up when I traveled to a conference this week.  The room lighting was horrible.  We forge ahead and have accomplished the following:

Sampler Progress - Main

I’m using a Wichelt fabric, which is pretty stiff.  I actually don’t need stretcher bars or a hoop.  Yes, I am using the alternate red-green scheme.  Let’s look at the tree:

Tree and Presents

Can’t wait to do the beading on the tree.  Every tree should have lots of ornaments.  And presents.  The gorgeous “lacework” is one of the main reasons why I love this sampler.  Each lacework band is a bit different and very detailed.  It really pops on the raw fabric.  I have made one little adjustment.

Middle Bands

I mis-ordered my print-outs and missed the ray stitch band.  We forge ahead.  I know it looks a little crooked now.  After I stretch it for framing, all will be well.  I did print out my final set of instructions (hopefully in the correct order), so my goal is to finish up by the end of May.  I do have to add the branches on the middle holly band here.  They are tedious.  I tend to move through the hardanger reasonably quickly.  No fears about cutting the fabric.  No guts, no glory.  At the end of the day progress depends on Phoebe.

I'm Mommy's helper.

The Victoria Sampler cyberclasses are great.  This is my fifth.  I heartily recommend them to help you learn new needlework skills or to have a stitching group to cheer you on as you work on a sampler.  Overall, I think I have done about 10 of Thea’s designs and have about another 10 ready to go.  I have given some as gifts to folks who aren’t particularly needlework devotees, but who do appreciate the sophistication of Thea’s designs.  Back to work!