Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Popmuseum - a museum and archive of popular music in the Czech Republic

My travels for this research have already taken in a host of countries - Australia, Austria, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK and USA. My latest destination is the Czech Republic where today I made a visit to Prague's Popmuseum, located in District 2. 

This marks the 22nd DIY institution I have visited since beginning my music heritage research in 2010 and it is the second to have communism play a role in its founding story (the other being the Lippmann & Rau Music Archive in the former East Germany, see my earlier post here).

At the Popmuseum I interviewed three volunteers, including the person central to its founding, Ales Opekar. The museum has four exhibits a year in the main building as well as a smaller exhibit in a music venue in Central Prague. The Archive is in a building on the other side of the city, the Popmuseum having to separate its activities after its original location was devastated by the flood of 2002. Luckily at that time the items in the collection received minimal damage, but the event prompted the national institution to offer a more secure facility to house the archive - an important move for the preservation of Czech and Slovak popular music. The Popmuseum has a good relationship with the national institutions to which it was established in parallel, loaning artefacts in its collection to national exhibits that require some popular music representation.

The Popmuseum also has a strong relationship with Czech television, with at least two of the volunteers working for the main television station. Much of the archive's collection came together through Ales' work as a consultant for a documentary series on Czech rock which uncovered important materials in private collections.

Indeed at the end of the interview it was revealed that one of the most important collections of Czech popular music is housed in Australia. The problem - how to return this material to Prague once the collector can no longer care for it? The cost of transporting such a vast collection is prohibitive but once it arrives back in the Czech Republic the issue becomes one of where to store it. The Popmuseum archive is already full to the brim. Perhaps crowd funding might be the answer, or at least part of the answer. See this earlier post.