The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML) has received a generous sponsorship for partial support of the museum’s exhibitions over the next five years from Western Fraternal Life. The NCSML will use these funds to help present our exhibitions to the public. Exhibitions under sponsorship include Čičmianske Domy: The Houses of Čičmany Village, Dale Chihuly: Venetians from the George R. Stroemple Collection, and Twists and Turns: The Story of Sokol. As many as ten exhibitions each year through 2021 will be funded through this generous sponsorship.
Western Fraternal Life has a rich history covering more than 100 years. The Western Fraternal Life organization began in 1897, founded as a new society called “Západní Česko Bratrská Jednota” or Western Bohemian Fraternal Association. This group was a membership-based organization which provided its members life insurance. Members created lodges in their areas to celebrate ethnic traditions, speak their native language, and produce artistic performances and cultural events.
According to Western Fraternal Life,“Fraternalism is an interesting outgrowth of the waves of immigrants who, in the mid-nineteenth century, came to the U.S. seeking the American dream. For many of the earliest settlers, that dream meant buying and owning land, working in factories or starting businesses. The hardworking immigrants from Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia settled together in clusters so they could speak their language and share resources, as did many others.”
The lodges became a source of support and camaraderie for members. Today, Western Fraternal Life’s lodges are still a source of fraternalism, just as they have been for the past 120 years.
Since the NCSML was founded in 1974, the museum and Western have had a supportive partnership based on shared goals to preserve Czech and Slovak history and culture. In 1993, Western Fraternal Life’s members made pledges to build the new museum and library with each pledge matched by Western. Following the flood in 2008, the NCSML received another significant pledge to help rebuild the facility that is the present day museum and library. The program hall at NCSML is named WLFA/ZCBJ Heritage Hall, which stands for Western Fraternal Life Association / Západní Česko Bratrská Jednota in acknowledgement of Western Fraternal Life’s contributions.
Western Fraternal Life’s President Craig Van Dyke also serves on the NCSML Board of Trustees today. Of their most recent gift, Craig stated, “Western is proud to support the NCSML and celebrate Czech and Slovak culture through exhibitions that everyone can enjoy.” Craig Van Dyke, Western Fraternal Life President and NCSML Board of Trustees Member.
Now the NCSML’s planning and execution of world-class exhibitions in 2017 through 2021 will be partially supported by another generous long-term commitment from Western Fraternal Life. This valuable ongoing support will help pay the loan fees, design, production, installation and promotion required. At the NCSML, we are thrilled that the Western Fraternal Life will proudly be associated with all the exhibits for the next five years.