CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIETY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
SVU Establishes a Special Studies Fund
The Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) has, for some time, been concerned about the deplorable state of Czech and Slovak related archival materials in America. Although some of these materials have been deposited in existing archives, the majority of documents are still in private hands. Their owners are frequently unaware of their historic value and, as a consequence, many of these precious materials are destroyed or lost. It is for this reason that SVU had convened in November 2003 in Washington, DC, in cooperation with the Embassies of the Czech and the Slovak Republics, respectively, a "Working Conference on Czech and Slovak American Archival Materials and their Preservation".
The Conference was a huge success. It was attended by archivists from the major archival institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, historians, as well as ethnic community leaders representing Czech and Slovak communities in the US and Canada. This was not just a "show-and-tell" type of meeting, as most conferences are, but a genuine working conference in which issues were presented, discussed and solutions sought. A a result of the Conference, the participants unanimously agreed to launch a concerted effort leading to the preservation of Czech and Slovak documents and other memorabilia for the future, irrespective of where there are. This goal, of course, is feasible and attainable only with the participation and cooperation of the entire Czech and Slovak community in the US and Canada. The mechanism for cooperation is already in place in the recently created National Heritage Commission, comprised of the major Czech ethnic organizations in America.
Several specific recommendations of the Conference have already been implemented, including the establishment of a new umbrella organization, "Czech & Slovak American Archival Consortium" (CSAAC), encompassing the major institutions that maintain such archival materials. The Consortium?s official website ?Czech & Slovak American Archivalia,? hosted by SVU, can be accessed on the following address: http://www.svu2000.org/archivalia/index.htm
Another recommendation of the Conference was to prepare a tentative Directory of Czech and Slovak related archival materials in America. Thanks to the efforts of SVU, which conducted a comprehensive survey in this regard, and which I had the pleasure to direct, and in fact, to carry out, such a Directory now exists. As was previously announced, it was published a few months ago, under the title Czechoslovak American Archivalia, through the courtesy of the Center for Czechoslovak Exile Studies of the Philosophical Faculty at Palacky University in Olomouc, as a two-volume set, which was available for everyone to see at the new book exhibit at the recent SVU Conference in Florida. It is a listing of US-based archival materials and library holdings relating to emigres and exiles from the territory of former Czechoslovakia and relevant holdings bearing on their ancestral land. The first volume encompasses US government repositories, university-based collections, collections maintained by public museums and libraries, collections of ethnic and other cultural organizations. The second volume covers personal papers and collections, including notable personalities, as well as lesser known individuals, emigrants and exiles, who have distinguished themselves in public life, and professions. It is an indispensable resource for scholars and students.
One of the major unresolved issues that was brought up by the above Working Archival Conference was the paucity of funds to prepare inventories of the existing archival collections and to enable scholars and students to conduct research in the archives. Having this in mind, SVU, which has recently deposited its archives at the University of Minnesota's Immigration History /Research Center (IHRC), has used the occasion of the SVU Florida Conference, to announce the establishment of a special Czech and Slovak Archival Study Fund at IHRC. In my capacity as SVU President, I had the pleasure of presenting a check, in the amount of $10,000, to Director of the Center, Prof. Rudolph Vecoli, at the banquet, attended by some 300 persons, including the representatives from the Czech and Slovak Embassies and other dignitaries, from the Czech and Slovak Republics, as well as a number of American Czech/Slovak community leaders.
It is hoped that the SVU?s example will be infectious to inspire other Czech and Slovak ethnic organizations to join in this important and noble endeavor. When the Fund will reach the level of $25,000, the University of Minnesota will start matching these donations with their own money. Just before I stepped on the platform to announce the SVU donation, I was gratified to get commitment from Prof. Jan Hird Pokorny, on behalf of their American Fund for Czechoslovak Relief (AFCSR), to give a comparable amount to IHRC next year.
We want our members to be aware of this, in the hope that they will send in additional donations so that the Fund can grow and become an important financial resource to enable the students and scholars from CR and SR, as well as from the United States, to conduct serious research in our Archives and at IHRC. At the same time, we appeal to our members and to ethnic organizations to assure that their archival materials are deposited in IHRC or other comparable archival institutions and thus preserved for the future.
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