Review: Charles University Exhibition

 

Admittedly, some exhibition’s can be a boring and tedious experience. But one about a university with such history could never be. Whether you’re a student of the University, or just a resident in Prague, there’s no question about the number of stories that the Uni can tell – and they’re all on display within the City Campus. In the under-passes of the main entrance the University has put on a complete spread of the history and life of its establishment. From physical displays of past degree certificates and medallions, to written informative texts – the exhibition gives that perfect bit of extra knowledge to anyone who enters.

The exhibition addresses an array of important time-periods that are key to the University’s heritage. Whether this was in the form of simple facts such as 1920 being the year that the Uni expanded to become Charles University, or the more complex situations – such as the 1939 Nazi takeover of the University, causing Czech students to be pushed from their studies, to concentration camps and forced labour.

Entering the exhibition on semi-unknowledgeable grounds left my mind open to what I could find out about the history of Charles University that didn’t solely revolve around its connection with Charles IV. However by being immediately greeted by one of many tall information points, my mind wasn’t left wandering for long. Detailing the establishment’s founding and progression and numerous other details, the various boards help to keep you up-to-date with all the past, present and future of the University, whether you’re a native or English speaker.

Following the exhibition round shows us through the ages, bringing focus to key members of the periods such as Jan Palach, Ferdinand III and, predictably, Charles IV. The Ferdinand III artifacts especially drew great attention towards the University’s regular changes, including documentation of the 17th century name change to Charles-Ferdinand University and many a letter of thanks from the Holy Roman Emperor himself.

However a personal highlight throughout the exhibition was learning, not only the in-depth story of Jan Palach and how far he went to protest for his passions, but his participation within Charles University. The self-sacrifice during the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia is something that’s memorable to both the University and ex-students, so therefore should be something that is well commemorated, especially as the sacrifice was by an ex-student himself.

The exhibition also displayed Palach’s student record book and death mask alongside photographs of his funeral, which made the stories that little bit more home-hitting, even for a London born-and-bred visitor.

There was something very royal about the exhibition, and precious possessions such as busts of key lecturers and numerous jewels and the Charles University scepter of rector emphasized this feeling further. Key exhibits to keep an eye-open for, although it’s unlikely you’ll miss them, are such unique artifacts as the 12th century Medieval well, the diploma and medal of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded to Jaroslav Hyrovskÿ in 1959 and the relic cross with remains of St. John of Nepomuk, otherwise known as the Saint of Czech Republic.

Overall the exhibition is something that is definitely worth a visit, whether you are a student within the Uni or a visitor to the city, it’s something that gives you a total knowledge and understanding about why Prague is the way it is today. Giving you an insight into secret meanings behind the University and a look at precious exhibitions, it’s something that shouldn’t be missed – especially for free.

 

Charles University exhibition is open from 10-6, Tuesday-Sunday and is situation within the main entrance of the University: Ovocný trh 3-5, Prague 1, 116 36.

Written by Mollie Mansfield

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