Plzeňské sympozia

Pavel Šopák

The Periphery of a Periphery: The Concept of a Museum for Austrian Silesia (Marking the Bicentenary of the Gymnasial Museum in Opava)

pp. 353–363 (Czech), Summary p. 364 (English)

The author documents the tense relations between centre and periphery on the example of the Gymnasial Museum in Opava, established in 1814, one of the Austrian empire’s first such institutions. The double presence of the word “periphery” in the title of this essay relates to the complexity of the museum’s co-existence with the political powers that be, as well as with the local authorities and cultural élites and their institutions. Silesia was then not an autonomous region of the empire, but rather only a part of the province of Moravia and Silesia. Consequently, the museum in Opava continued to hold the status of a mere Gymnasialmuseum, notwithstanding the considerable extent of its collections. While up until 1850 it had already grappled with a host of administrative obstacles, its subsequent existence became even more precarious. In legal terms, it fell under the jurisdiction of neither the state, the land, the city, and nor was it operating on a private basis. Actually, it was run by several different agents. The museum’s situation still deteriorated after the annulment of Silesia’s land status (1928), whereafter the region came to be administered from Brno, as it had been earlier on, between 1783 and 1850. The museum’s 150 years of uncertain existence ended with the Nazi protectorate in 1939, when it was transformed into a natural sciences  department of the German Reich’s Provincial Museum. It carried on as an administrative entity under this heading, yet its material substance, i.e., museum collections (chiefly centered around the natural sciences) and library, ended up scattered and destroyed in the spring of 1945.

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