A fun thing we’ve learned during our travels is to check out off-the-path attractions. They can be worth the time. We had been interested in visiting the Czech-Slovak Museum in Omaha for a while. We visited with a Czech immigrant in the Old Market a couple of weeks ago, and she suggested stopping by the museum. It refreshed my memory on wanting to visit it. So, we headed out this past weekend to do just that.
The Czech-Slovak Museum is not a large museum. Open since 2014, it sits in an old Chili’s restaurant at Omaha’s Crossroads Mall. People from Omaha know that this once vibrant shopping mall has seen its better days. However, the mall’s owners have pressed forward, bringing in businesses and opening opportunities to civic groups, such as Omaha’s Czech and Slovak community to house its museum.
We’ve found that smaller, culturally-focused museums can be worthy attractions. They’re usually inexpensive or free (this museum is free). They focus on their heritage and history. These usually combine for a successful story and presentation.
The museum has a history of the Czech-Slovak people displayed in the hallway near the mall’s main entrance. It offers an interesting, educational and humorous look at the history of the culture as a giant-sized version of “A History of the Great Czech Nation…and a few world events.” The display, like many of the items at the museum, is on loan from people.
As you walk into the museum itself, you can catch an aroma of treats. Kolaches and Kolackys are available for purchase. These handmade treats are made with flour and usually fruit filled. And they are delicious. The museum has a small café attached, where visitors can purchase the treats and a drink.
Once inside the exhibit area, you’re greeted by marionettes. Puppets and marionettes have played strong roles as part of Czech history. They date to the 17th or 18th century. The marionettes come in different sizes.
Glassware is another popular tradition with the Czechs and Slovaks. Designing beautiful and colorful glassware has long been a tradition, beginning with Bohemians. The museum has several pieces on display and for sale.
One thing that stands out among most European cultures is colorful outfits that are worn during festivals and celebrations.
My dad loved his polka music. I remember we bought him an album once that had 100 polka songs on it. I don’t think my mom ever forgave me for that gift. I recall him listening to polka music every Sunday afternoon on Fremont’s KHUB radio. That memory came back strong as we checked out a polka exhibit that included the KHUB station sign.
The museum keeps the polka tradition alive with guest entertainers, including Tom Sladek.
A trio of Czech motorcycles are displayed with racing gear on a back wall.
The Czech-Slovak Museum occupies about 4,500 square feet of space at Crossroads. Plans eventually call for relocating it to near Gretna, on Highway 6, just north of Interstate 80. The museum’s foundation owns land there. It’s a work in progress, said John Rocarek, the museum’s executive director. They are acquiring pieces to display.
The museum rotates displays every few months to keep attractions fresh, he said. Omaha’s Czech-Slovak Museum and Gift Shop is open weekends 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
We recommend visiting this museum. It’s an interesting place to visit, with a lot of history to tell, and some good food to enjoy.
For more information on the museum, please visit www.facebook.com/CzechAndSlovakMuseum.