By Teresa Stenstrup, Director of Programs
Programs and activities are not just for those who want to remember “being there” when historical events happened. Learn how our director of programs views the NCSML’s 2019 programs that focus on 1989 in Eastern Europe.
President Reagan’s speech in West Berlin where he utters those famous words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” is one of those moments in history that most people can say they have heard regardless of their age. I can hear the tone and inflection of President Reagan’s speech in my head today even though I wasn’t even alive when he gave that iconic speech in West Berlin. It’s one of those moments in history that transcends its date because of what it signifies. Reagan’s speech in 1987 is synonymous with the actual fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which quite literally signified the end of communism along the Eastern Bloc in Europe, including Czechoslovakia. That’s why in 2019 we have chosen to focus on the year 1989. Thirty years later the “year that shook communism” is still relevant and the lessons learned can still be applied today.
Like Reagan’s speech, the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of Communism is one of those pivotal moments in history that most of us just seem to know about. I don’t remember the specific lessons I was taught in school and couldn’t tell you when I learned about the fall of the wall and Communism; it’s just one of those things I feel like I’ve always known about. I had heard about Czechoslovakia and knew that there were now two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, before I started as the Director of Programs here, but will admit I didn’t know much about the storied history of those two countries. I find the Velvet Revolution fascinating and hope that as people learn more about it in 2019, they will too.
Many times people in our community and beyond will say they don’t think that a Czech and Slovak Museum is for them, that they don’t have the heritage or any personal connection to the subject. My job is to show that they do have connections to our museum and that they can see themselves in the subject matter when they enter our doors. I know this is possible because even though I’m not Czech or Slovak I see myself and feel connected with the stories I learn on a daily basis.
We have lots of surprises in store, but programming at the NCSML in 2019 will be focused on celebrating the freedom of expression that was denied under Communist control in 1989 and that still continues to be denied by totalitarian control today. I know that sounds like quite the undertaking, but along with our new Exhibition, Revolution 1989, I hope that our guests will come away from 2019 not only understanding the year 1989, but also why that year means something to them today.