CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A multimedia exhibit that opened Saturday, April 7, 2018, at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library offers a number of unique twists.
The background story, itself, is a little-known narrative of 60,000 Czech and Slovak soldiers who seized the Trans-Siberian railroad during World War I and fought their way across Siberia, even before the birth of their own nation of Czechoslovakia.
Building the “Guts & Glory” exhibit provided another unusual collaboration, between the museum staff and consultants, with high school students from Iowa BIG and Metro High School STEAM Academy.
Iowa BIG students designed the virtual reality scenario that museum-goers can use as part of the tour, while Metro students designed, built and installed the replica train cars that also are part of the exhibit.
Artist Rachel Marie-Crane Williams of the University of Iowa faculty added another twist, with more than two dozen large-scale interpretive panels that tell the story in graphic novel form.
During an opening reception April 6, Kevin McNamara, author of “Dreams of a Great Small Nation” told the background about the soldiers in Siberia, noting that Czech and Slovak immigrants in Iowa played a role in helping to raise money for their efforts during the war.
The exhibit marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
Hynek Kmoníček, the Czech Ambassador to the United States, and Jozef Polakovič, Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy of the Slovak Republic, were among the dignitaries at the opening reception, which included a ribbon-cutting for the exhibit.
Guts & Glory is open through Dec. 31, 2018 at the museum, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, in Czech Village in Cedar Rapids.
Learn about other Czech connections in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and see more photos from Friday’s opening reception, below: