Award for the Jewish Museum in Prague at the 19th Gloria Musaealis National Museum Competition

23. 6. 2021 Overview news

The results of the 19th Gloria Musaealis National Museum Competition were recently announced in the Smetana Hall, Municipal House, Prague. This prestigious competition is organized jointly by the Czech Ministry of Culture, the Association of Museums and Galleries in the Czech Republic, and the Czech Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). In the “Museum Achievement of the Year” category, the Jewish Museum in Prague received a special award – among the six highest rated entries – for its reconstruction of the Spanish Synagogue and its new exhibition that is housed there (“Jews in the Bohemian Lands, 19th–20th Centuries”). In this category, the jury selected among 25 institutions that had entered the competition.
“We are very pleased that the jury appreciated our reconstruction of the Spanish Synagogue and our new exhibition. It is also of great satisfaction for us, in particular because most of the work on this project took place during the pandemic, which caused a severe drop in income for the museum. Although the Jewish Museum is a non-state institution which must rely on its own resources in order to fully secure its operations, we managed – even at a time of financial losses – to complete this costly project in accordance with our original objective, so that our visitors can now enjoy it,” said the museum director Leo Pavlát.
At a cost of several tens of millions of Czech Crowns, the ambitious reconstruction – based on plans drawn up by the architectural firm Petr Franta Architekti & Asoc. s.r.o. – has expanded the exhibition space to provide an additional 600 square metres. Among other things, it has provided barrier-free access to the upper floor gallery area. Following on from the previous, thematically-related display at the synagogue, which was installed in 1998, a new and modern exhibition was put together as part of the reconstruction project. The focus of the new exhibition is on the 19th and 20th-century history and culture of the local Jewish community.
According to the museum director Leo Pavlát, “the new permanent exhibition will guide the visitor through the history of the immense upheavals that the Bohemian and Moravian Jewish community has gone through in the past two centuries. All of this can be experienced by viewing the unique pieces of Judaica and other objects, documents, films and photographs that are on display. In addition, the exhibition includes audiovisual and interactive elements, which have been installed with full respect to the unique space of the synagogue. An important new feature of the exhibition is the attention it pays to the history of the Jews between 1945 and 1989, as well as the subsequent period. This previously neglected chapter of recent Czech history will be of particular interest to local visitors”.
After landscaping the paths in the Old Jewish Cemetery (2013), opening a new Information and Reservation Centre in Maiselova Street (2014), and modernizing the exhibitions in the Maisel Synagogue (2015) and Pinkas Synagogue (2018), the newly opened Spanish Synagogue is the Jewish Museum’s fourth project as part of a wider transformation programme.

The Jewish Museum in Prague was founded 1906, which makes it the third oldest Jewish museum in Europe. At the core of its collection were objects from synagogues and prayer houses that had been demolished as a result of the clearance of the Prague Jewish ghetto. During the Second World War, the museum was turned into a storehouse of Nazi-confiscated Jewish ritual objects and books, which to this day provide a powerful reminder of the Jews from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia who perished in the Shoah. Under the Communist regime, the museum was taken under state control and faced numerous restrictions. It was only after the return of democracy that the museum could fully develop its operations. Since then, its has become one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the Czech Republic.
The 19th Gloria Musaealis National Museum Competition included 98 entries submitted by 56 museums and galleries. The largest category was the Museum of the Year (40 entries), followed by Museum Publications of the Year (33 entries) and Museum Achievement of the Year (25 entries).