The goal of a recent multi-step project led by Filip Šír is to create an online database of scripts, recordings and other documents by Jan Werich and George Voskovec. These Czech comedians and pioneers of famous avant-garde performances in Prague Liberated Theater, which later encouraged aversion to Nazi aggression well into the mid-1930s. Both men were forced to emigrate from Czechoslovakia to the USA in 1939.
The project is specifically based on research, archival evidence, and later preservation of their wartime recordings which were published on records that were broadcast by the BBC and the Voice of America under the U.S. Office of War Information. Many were later transferred to magnetic tape. These recordings are housed in various cultural institutes in both the Czech Republic and the USA. Extensive international collaboration and networking is required to locate recordings in the U.S. National Archives and the Library of Congress, as well as in Iowa, Ohio, and Texas. In addition, the research has sought to map the activities of Voskovec and Werich’s colleagues, Jaroslav Ježek and Adolf Hoffmeister, in the U.S. during WWII.
This project aims to cast a wider net for relevant recorded sound resources in the Czech diaspora, and to raise awareness in order to locate information, documents, and institutions which will be key for building on existing research and completing an important but hidden part of trans-national history.