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VOC Museum

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Václav Havel: From Dissident to President

In 2023, the Victims of Communism Museum was proud to host a temporary exhibit, “Václav Havel: From Dissident to President.” The exhibit chronicled pivotal moments in the life of Václav Havel as a pre-revolutionary dissident, playwright, and as the first President of the Czech Republic following the collapse of the communist regime after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. 

Václav Havel was a playwright, essayist and philosopher, Charter 77 spokesman, prisoner of conscience, a leading figure in the political changes of 1989, President of the Czech Republic, and a global political figure who played a crucial role in bringing the Czech Republic into NATO, marking the beginning of a new chapter in relations between Czechoslovakia and the United States.

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Key quotations from the major works, essays, and speeches of Václav Havel—The Power of the Powerless 1978Letters to Olga 1980Speech at Wenceslas Square 1989, and Joint Address to Congress 1990—are exhibited with a narrative recounting key dates in the history of the Czech Republic and in the life of Václav Havel. Personal artifacts that belonged to Václav Havel are on display, as well as audio-visual footage of Havel.

For the first time in the United States, the exhibit featured a bronze model of the Disappearing Man statuary, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Prague. This unique work was the exhibit’s centerpiece, reflecting in art, Vaclav Havel’s deep-rooted understanding of totalitarianism’s effect on the human condition.

The exhibit was curated in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in the United States, the Václav Havel Library in Prague, the FIU Václav Havel Center for Human Rights and Diplomacy initiative, and with the generous sponsorship of the Stapleton Charitable TrustCountess Arco, the Honorable Don Ritter and daughter Kristina Ritter Loverro, Mr. Geoffrey Hoguet, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the American Friends of the Czech Republic, and the Bohemian Benevolent Literary Association.

The exhibit, which ran through the end of September 2023, was inaugurated on May 24 with an event featuring remarks from Markéta Pekarová Adamová, President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Amb. Miloslav Stašek, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)Amb. Martin Palouš, Senior Fellow and Director of the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Democracy at the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs of Florida International University, Pavel Hajek, Curator, Václav Havel Library, Prague, the Czech Republic, and VOC President Amb. Andrew Bremberg.

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Hours

Tuesday – Saturday:
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Location

900 15th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20005