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National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library Intends to Elevate Museum Building

Museum will also be expanded for additional exhibition, collection, educational programming and research space

The Board of Directors of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library announced today that it is pursuing a plan to move and then elevate its flood-damaged museum building. The museum building will become part of a new and expanded facility. The 15-year-old structure is an architectural icon in Cedar Rapids and the museum’s red roof rising above the 2008 floodwaters depicted the Cedar Rapids disaster around the world.

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, IA

“This museum represents and tells the story of hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their history. It is a symbol of the courage and vision of Czechs and Slovaks around the world and it will be the symbol of rebirth for Cedar Rapids,” President/CEO Gail Naughton, said. “We are eager to move forward with our plan.”

In an effort to protect the building from future flooding and to retain it for its original purpose, the board of directors has agreed to pursue moving the physical structure from its current site on the banks of the Cedar River to a site across the street, still in the area considered “Czech Village” throughout the community. The building will be elevated, with parking on the lower level. The main floor of the museum will be three feet above the 2008 flood level.

The moved and expanded museum and library is planned to be 60,000 square feet, which will include larger permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, an expanded research library, educational programming space, a new museum store, collection storage and work space.

The board decision followed an extensive process of evaluation, during which, the museum staff and board learned that -- where it stands -- the existing building could no longer be used to house exhibitions, artifacts and library collections.

“We simply cannot insure them in that location,” said President/CEO Gail Naughton. The choice to move the building was determined to be the best way to preserve what has become an icon for Cedar Rapids and the museum’s national and international constituency, while meeting the requirements of an accredited museum.” In 1995, the museum hosted President of Slovakia, Michal Kovaè; President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel; and President of the United States, Bill Clinton at the dedication of the museum. “We are very excited at the prospect of preserving the history of this museum and the people it represents by moving and protecting it,” Board Chair Gary Rozek said. “We have investigated the technical complexities and are confident that such an engineering feat is, indeed, possible.”

The next step is to design the new exhibition center and library. Detailed engineering studies of the building site are underway with the goal to make site improvements and move the existing building in 2010. Construction of the new additions will begin in 2011 with an opening date in 2012.

“After the flood, the museum received a generous gift from the people of the Czech Republic, to help with flood recovery. There is no doubt that this gift helped us to leverage a $10 million (US) allocation from the state of Iowa. But it has value far beyond dollars; it reminds us of the enduring friendship between our two countries,” said Naughton.

Rebuilding the national museum is estimated to cost $20 million (US), with the total for recovery at $25 million. Naughton emphasized that the success of this project depends on the outstanding support from the museum’s local, national and international circle of friends.

While the NCSML is rebuilding its main exhibition center and library, it will operate from the historic Kosek Building in Czech Village where it will feature an original exhibition titled, Rising Above: The Story of a People and the Flood; a museum store; classroom and administrative offices. This building is slated to open in March 2010.


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