Heritage and society in the Czech lands between 1900 and 1960: professional and personal strategies of heritage preservationists in the light of private correspondence

Project code
Project type
Program na podporu aplikovaného výzkumu v oblasti národní a kulturní identity na léta 2023 až 2030 (NAKI III)
Year of start
Year of completion
Researcher in MÚA
Michal Kurz
Ústav dějin umění AV ČR
Masarykův ústav a Archiv AV ČR; Národní galerie v Praze

The protection of cultural heritage plays a key role in shaping a common cultural identity. The aim of the project is to map little-known contexts of the history of Czech heritage conservation. It focuses on the development of the local society’s relationship to the protection of heritage properties in the first half of the 20th century from the perspective of various social, professional and interest groups. It tries to emphasize the importance of this protection for the formation of a shared cultural consciousness and to present the often forgotten actors who gave this activity a face. The project follows the period 1900–1960 and thus includes several major historical turning points, against the background of which important changes and constants in the approach to heritage properties can be captured. The core of the research is the reconstruction of period actor networks, the axis of which is the work of Zdeněk Wirth, a key initiator, guarantor and popularizer of the field throughout the period under review. The project will therefore benefit from Wirth’s extremely valuable and rich collection of correspondence with leading figures in the field. The project is based on interdisciplinary cooperation between art historians, historians and archivists. It makes effective use of the shared potential of the three participating institutions that manage key research archives. Parts of period correspondence will be made available in the form of a public database and editions, which will be complemented by the audiovisual program on the importance of correspondence for the knowledge of modern history. The main outputs are three exhibitions with accompanying catalogues and an interactive map presenting selected regional personalities, institutions and monument cases. In this manner, the project will present not only the history of the field, but also the importance of heritage properties protection for the identification of residents with their municipality, region or country.