Pantheon to go back to its roots

The National Museum will be changing the lineup of famous people

The National Museum on the top of Wenceslas Square has been undergoing renovations and will partly reopen in 2018. When it does, the Pantheon, a hall with statues of significant Czechs, won't look the same as it did when the public was last inside. All of the statues have been removed and are undergoing restoration and conservation. When they come back, the list of people to go on display won't be the same.

Michal Stehlík, deputy director of the central collection and exhibition activities, said in a video posted on the National Museum's Facebook page that the space will get a new concept. The video was in response to comments over social media reacting to a comment last week by museum director Michal Lukeš about the changes.

One complaint over social media was that journalist Julius Fučík was being removed. Stehlík pointed out that Fučík, a communist who died in 1943, had actually been removed in 1991. Some people who were also said to be slated for removal over social media had never been there in the first place, such as poet Fráňa Šrámek, he added.

When the busts and sculptures are returned, some 14 figures including five large statues that were removed in the early 1950s will be put back in their places. This will bring the Pantheon back to what it was like in 1948, before it was reconfigured in the communist era to conform with their political agenda.

The Pantheon, when it reopens, will also include information about all of the changes over its history detailing the circumstances of who was removed and when.

When the Pantheon opened in 1891, there were 35 portraits of famous people. Emperor Franz Josef I was included as he was a financial benefactor of the museum. At first, the figures depicted were men.

A new wave of figures were added in during the First Republic, including the first woman, author Božena Němcová. The display was considered complete in 1948 when historian Josef Pekař was added.

But there were further changes. The Pantheon after 1951 was not the original concept, but one devised by historian Zdeněk Nejedlý, who was minister of education and culture in the government of Klement Gottwald. Nejedlý's bust was also removed from the Pantheon in 1991.

The National Museum has been closed since 2011 for a long-term renovation to fix the interior space and also to address structural problems caused by rumblings from the subway and main roads under and around the historical building. The spaces for exhibitions will also be modernized, as the museum had been considered very dated.

Part of the museum should open by October 2018 in time for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia. The whole museum should be open by 2020.

In the meantime, other venues operated by the National Museum including the New Building across the street in the former federal parliament building remain open.

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