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Oskar Schindler
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Museum history

The history of Svitavy museum administration reaches back to the year 1894. Though small in the beginning, the collections gradually grew. But when the museum building fell into serious disrepair in the 1960s the museum lost a substantial portion of its collections. The path from exhibition halls to a museum documenting the labour movement and the subsequent renewal of the town museum and gallery was not simple.

The Town Museum and Gallery in Svitavy is a government-funded organization established by the town of Svitavy. The history of the local museum dates to the year 1894. In that year a large exhibition of crafts from the Hřebeč area was held in the school on the square. Ferdinand Wener, the chairman of the organization committee, was instrumental in seeing that a part of the exhibited items became the base of the collections for the new town museum. Immediately following the conclusion of the exhibition a committee for establishing the museum was formed. The members of this committee were faced with a nearly impossible problem – where to find a suitable space for the museum. In December 1894 the town assembly provided the committee a grant for the Alterheimsmuseum. A decision was reached to establish the museum in the orphanage. In the meantime the first gifts from townsmen were collected in the school on the square; Carl Lick was appointed to the committee to work with Anton Fuchs and Franz Ripple. Nothing is known of museum activities until the year 1913, when a plan to adapt a space in the former Strakel factory was approved. Town doctor Ernst Donth headed the museum committee at this time. In the meantime the depository of the museum was established at the town savings bank and it was the intention of the museum administrators to install an ethnographic exhibit with a farm sitting room. The museum shared the Strakel factory with a women’s vocational school, but received substantial support from town grants. The museum was to be ceremoniously opened in 1914 but these plans were interrupted by the beginning of the First World War. Nevertheless, work continued on cataloguing the valuable collections of weapons, pewter dishes, and paintings. Nothing is known of the history of the museum after the founding of the independent Czechoslovakia. Not until 1935 was the Museum Association (Deutschen Museums-verein in Zwittau) under the directorship of Dr. E. Donth established. With the support of Mayor Johann Wolf the association took efforts at founding the museum to the phase of approving statutes and drawing up a plan to use the old town hall building for the institution. But evens these attempts were frustrated by war.
It is not known where and in what condition the museum collections were stored. The town chronicles speak of the destruction of part of the collection during the Střelnice fire in 1945. Finally, the new town museum was ceremoniously opened in the former Budig Villa on Smetana Square on 27 April 1947. The openings of exhibitions by two Svitavy artists, sculptor Josef Kadlec and painter Jaroslav Pavliš were held concurrently. Dr. B. Votava was appointed chairman of the museum council. By the 1960s the museum building had fallen into a dilapidated state. The structure of the building had been attacked by a wood fungus and repairs took until 1969. The museum statutes were changed, the collections were stored away, and under the auspices of the District Museum of National Art and History in Litomyšl only the Svitavy Exhibition Hall was founded. The District Museum of the Labour Movement was established in a new building annex in 1976. In 1990 the name of the museum was changed to the Exhibition Gallery in Svitavy and again in 1991 to the Town Museum and Gallery in Svitavy. Museum collections are focused on documenting crafts, regional art, and the work of technicians.

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