In Prague, a tale of communism past

A new exhibit in Prague highlights the way museums were used as a communist propaganda tool, molding the way citizens interpreted moments in their shared history. 

By , Contributor

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Museums as a communist propaganda tool are the focus of a new exhibition titled “Red Museums” at the National Memorial in Prague, Czech Republic. The exhibition, organized by the National Museum, takes a look at how the communist regime used museums to shape cultural knowledge by reinterpreting watershed moments in Czech history in a way that satisfied those in power. 

By the 1950s the Communist Party had begun to establish its own museums, such as the Museum of V.I. Lenin, which introduced visitors to communist ideals via the life of the Soviet leader. Traditional museum exhibits underwent an ideological transformation – all attempts at discussion or historical interpretation made way for communist education. For example, in the 1970s, exhibitions showcased the 1968 Prague Spring uprising in a negative light. For the then-Czechoslovakians who visited these museums from 1948 to 1989, the communist-colored exhibits provided a type of false security by showing images of a functioning and united society, while confirming the stereotypes of their nation.

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“Red Museums” exhibit organizers hope to revive a discussion of how history has been presented in Czech museums as well as the role of museums moving forward into the 21st century. 

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