A brand new series of interactive guided tours is coming to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library this spring! While traditional tours are often done in more of a lecture style, the NCSML’s Unofficial Museum Tours include entertaining group participation, games, exciting stories and hidden histories, a fast pace, and a sense of humor. Artifacts and exhibits come to life during these fun, social experiences. The tour series was partially inspired by an audience engagement and team-building workshop for NCSML staff led by Museum Hack, a New York City-based company which specializes in alternative museum tours, as well as current trends in historical interpretation. (Thank you to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation for making this professional development opportunity possible!)

Two marvelous Gallery Tour Specialist interns have been working to create these new guided experiences. Various tours are being polished at this very moment for the museum’s permanent exhibit, Faces of Freedom: The Czech and Slovak Journey. One of these tours focuses on spies and assassins; another highlights the vibrant musical history of the Czech and Slovak people. Tours are also being piloted for Bohemian Boudoir: Czech Vanity Glass (opened April 23), Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works (opens May 14) and Amadeus: Costumes for the Obsessed and Vengeful (opens August 13). Be sure to check the museum’s online event calendar for updated tour subjects, dates, and times!

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Meet the Tour Guides:

Emily Wenzel

I am a junior at Cornell College, double majoring in English and music.

My favorite thing about developing tours for the museum is getting to spend hours in the exhibits themselves, getting to know the artifacts and reading every information card, and then coming up with ways to take all that information and put it in a format that is more dynamic and engaging for all different types of museum-goers. This is going to be especially fun in the summer, when we have more young visitors, to show how the history of the Czech and Slovak people is so related to the history of our own country.

Something that I have learned through my research with the museum is how forward-thinking the Czech and Slovak people were throughout history. In my music history classes, we always talk about how important Prague was to a lot of well-known composers, like Mozart, but the city is always talked about as part of Austria. In reality, most of the people living in Prague, the people that accepted and encouraged Mozart’s innovations and made him so popular, were Czech! Also, the early feminism of the Czech government, thanks to Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Charlotte Garrigue, was so far ahead of its time that it’s astounding!

My favorite artifact so far is one of the Henry Schlevogt perfume bottles in the Bohemian Boudoir: Czech Vanity Glass exhibit. The color is beautiful, and the stopper has a design of a very sneaky flute player that I find hilarious.

Three fun facts about me:

I play the flute.
I once owned a dog that knew how to climb trees.
I come from a really small town in central California.


MariahMasarykMariah Schlueter:

I will be graduating from Kirkwood Community College this May. Following this, I will transfer to another college for my BA in Acting and Writing. I hope to become a professional actor, film director, and a writer of novels and screenplays. I’d love to create phantasmagorical art that will help viewers think in new ways. I hope to widen my worldview by traveling, meeting new people from other cultures, and by learning languages.

I love the creative freedom that comes with developing tours for the museum, as I am able to teach people about Czech and Slovak history in a fun and interactive way that challenges them to see history – and museums – in a new light. Never before have I been challenged to create something quite like this – educational, interactive, and built around my interests. One of the best parts is being able to formulate the tours around the things in the museum that I find fascinating. I get to show people the nitty gritty details of history, the juicy things you have to dig deep to find.

My favorite artifacts in the museum are the statue of the President of the First Czechoslovak Republic, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, and the flour sack in the case adjacent from the panels on the Munich Agreement. The story of the statue’s journey in the Czech lands into the United States is befitting of an action film. The flour sack is fascinating, in the context of the time (flour sacks were sometimes used to smuggle contraband between borders). It’s inconspicuous. It’s perfect. You would never suspect it of being anything other than a flour sack. It’s both mundane and adventurous.

By summertime, the tours will be tidied up and smoothly running. I can’t wait to give them on a regular basis. After several months of hard work, it will be such a wonderful feeling to see something that I helped create become part of the museum.

I find myself learning something new every day here. I’ve certainly become a better researcher for it. I’ve become a better public speaker. New avenues to create and tell stories are becoming available to me as a guide, as a writer – as a storyteller. I get to be a sort of bard and teacher rolled into one. It’s a magical experience. It’s a great place to grow, learn, and experience. In a nutshell, I love it here.

Three fun facts about me:

I love learning new languages – in addition to studying Spanish in high school, I once taught myself conversational Dutch.

Due to my love of history and linguistics, I can safely say that if I weren’t going into the performing and writing arts, I would be studying something along the lines of Archaeology, or Paleontology, and a few classical languages, like Latin or Coptic.

You could ask me any question about Harry Potter and I’m probably going to know the answer.


Upcoming Unofficial Museum Tours (Saturdays)
Cost: Regular museum admission rates ($10/adult, $9/senior, $5/military, veteran, student, $3/youth ages 6-13, free for children 5 and under), plus $5 to include this additional special tour. Tour are mainly geared toward ages 13 and up.

May 21 at 11:00am – Spies, Assassins, and Smurfs: An Unofficial Museum Tour
May 21 at 1:00pm – Spies, Assassins, and Smurfs: An Unofficial Museum Tour
May 28 at 11:00am – Bohemian Boudoir: An Unofficial Museum Tour
May 28 at 1:00pm – Spies, Assassins, and Smurfs: An Unofficial Museum Tour

June 11 at 1:00pm – Bohemian Boudoir: An Unofficial Museum Tour
June 18 at 1:00pm – Pop Art is for Everyone: An Unofficial Museum Tour (Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works)
June 25 at 11:00am – Pop Art is for Everyone: An Unofficial Museum Tour
June 25 at 1:00pm – Bohemian Boudoir: An Unofficial Museum Tour

July and August dates: to be announced soon. 

Every tour starts with a cheer!


Thank you to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and Duane & Kay Nesetril for sponsoring the NCSML’s Unofficial Museum Tour series!

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