Museum will keep damage from 1968

The renovations will clean the facade but marks from gunfire will remain

When Warsaw-pact troops invaded Prague in Aug. 21, 1968, they mistook the National Museum on Wenceslas Square for the Parliament building. The facade of the museum was hit with some gunfire from the invaders and damaged.

The attack on the museum damaged the plaster, reliefs, sculptural decorations and the interior of the building, according to a National Museum press release.

When the renovations to the museum's facade are finished, the locations of the gunfire damage will remain visible.

“After completion of the general reconstruction, visible marks of stone damage to the columns will be replicated. These will be accompanied by a plaque at the entrance of the museum as a memorial to the August events,” said Milan Plaček, deputy chief of the National Museum.

At part of the current general renovation of the Historical Building of the National Museum, the stone columns and the rest of the facade are being cleaned and repaired to obtain a much lighter color, returning it to its original appearance from the end of the 19th century. In the final phase of the renovation the facade will be unified in color, but the location of the marks after the shooting in August 1968 will remain visible. This has been planned since the beginning of the renovation project of the National Museum, which began in 2015, though the building has been closed since 2011.

The National Museum, in carrying out all its work in the Historical Building, is cooperating with representatives of the National Monument Institute (NPÚ).

“After the cleaning of the facade, the contrast between the original stone parts and embedded bullet plugs was greatly erased. In order not for it to completely disappear, a color difference of these places will remain and the renovation color will not be unified. The National Monument Institute considers the monumental effect of the architecture of the museum building, which forms the conclusion of Wenceslas Square, as a priority,” NPÚ general director Naděžda Goryczková, said in a press release.

The historical building of the National Museum has been dominant feature of Wenceslas Square since the end of the 19th century.

The great devastation of the facade forced the repair in the 1970s, when the damaged parts were repaired by stone filling seals. The original light-color sculptures and columns were painted black. The seals in dark sandstone remained visible on the front of the building.

The historical building of the National Museum will partially reopen in October 2018 with a large Czech and Slovak exhibition to mark 100 years since the founding of Czechoslovakia and 200 years since the establishment of the first Czech national museum. The entire building will be finished by mid-2020.

The renovation work has not been without incident. A fire broke out in the museum in February 2016, and damaged 200 square meters of the roof. It took 150 firefighters two hours to get the fire under control. No exhibitions were damaged, as they had already been removed.

The National Museum was founded April 15, 1818, in Prague by Kašpar Maria Šternberg. Historian František Palacký was also involved. The museum was originally in the Šternberg Palace.

The current main museum building was built by Czech neo-Renaissance architect Josef Schulz from 1885 to '91 on the site of several palaces.

The building was damaged by a bomb during World War II in 1945 but the collections were in storage. The museum reopened in 1947, and in 1960 exterior night floodlighting was installed.

Aside from the damage in 1968, the museum was also damaged during the construction of the metro in 1972 and 1978. The opening of the magistrála highway in 1978 cut the building off from Wenceslas Square. This also led a high level of dust and constant vibrations from road traffic. The current renovations are meant to stabilize the building against damage from the vibrations and fix other structural problems.

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