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Institute of Archaeology, Prague - further details

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  • Alastair Millar
    Dear colleagues, I was able to visit the Institute of Archaeology in Prague yesterday, and must say that what I saw was far worse than I had imagined. All (and
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 22, 2002
      Dear colleagues,

      I was able to visit the Institute of Archaeology in Prague yesterday, and
      must say that what I saw was far worse than I had imagined. All (and I do
      mean all) of the staff are presently engaged in salvaging what they can
      from the wreckage manually.

      The entire ground floor of the Institute was submerged under 3m of water -
      for those that know the building, the water line runs just below the line
      of the ceiling vaults in the entrance... The ground floor housed storage
      space, the conservation department, part of the physical anthropology
      department and the post room, amongst other things.

      In terms of actual damage:
      * Of the 70,000 works in the Institute library stack, it is estimated that
      only 600 have survived. The card index, although waterlogged, has survived,
      and it is planned to scan surviving cards into a digital format before they
      * Damage to collections stored at the Institute is difficult at this stage
      to quantify. It will be extensive. Moreover, a great deal of unprocessed
      finds material has lost its context (and even site) information - the
      consequences of which I am sure we all understand only to clearly.
      * The physical anthropology department alone, which was engaged in DNA
      work, has lost equipment to the value of some 600,000 Crowns (20,000
      USD/EUR), including a laminate box and hepafilter.
      * Despite initial misgivings, it seems that the Institute's photographic
      archives have for the most part survived intact, albeit that some negatives
      will require cleaning. I have had enquiries off-list asking for Martin
      Gojda's private e-mail address, but Martin tells me that he never uses one
      and asks those wishing to contact him to be patient and wait for the
      Institute's own e-mail to be back in service.
      * The Institute's geophysical survey equipment has also survived, having
      been removed in time. Roman Krivanek can be contacted at home on
      krivanci@... (this is also the home mail address for Dana
      * It is estimated that physical repairs to the Institute building itself
      will cost over 2 Million Crowns (over 65,000 USD/EUR).
      * One telephone line into the building is apparently now (intermittently)
      working, but frankly I would not recommend that anyone call. The building
      is still without power.

      Note for comparative purposes: the average monthly wage in the Czech Rep.
      is around 10,000 Crowns (340 USD/EUR).

      Many people have asked me what they can do to help, and I would like to
      thank them for their concern - I shall continue to collate all such e-mails
      that I receive and pass them on to the Institute in due course.

      In terms of the specific help which is DESPERATELY needed:

      * The Institute has frozen many works so that they can be conserved later.
      The Institute is in dire need of somewhere to store these (at present they
      are reliant on the generosity of frozen foods companies etc. - a generosity
      which cannot be expected to last forever).
      * SUBSTANTIAL assistance will be required in the conservation and treatment
      of printed volumes, site plans and documentation - the Institute is (by
      both law and practice) the hub of archaeological work in Bohemia, and site
      plans in particular are utterly irreplaceable. Assistance in the form of
      technical aid, materials, expertise and no doubt manpower would all be
      * As the leading archaeological research institution in the Czech Republic,
      the loss of the library is a cruel blow. Clearly we would like to see the
      library recreated, and to that end donations of books, reference material,
      runs of periodicals etc. in future would be much appreciated.
      * Obviously, the Institute would also welcome financial contributions - it
      is unlikely in the extreme that the state and/or Academy and the insurance
      companies will be able to fund all of the repairs, replacements, removals
      and conservation necessary.

      Those able and willing to offer specific assistance should contact the
      Institute's deputy director, Natasha Venclova on her mobile phone number:
      +420.724.039243. (In view of her workload at present, PLEASE do not call
      simply to offer sympathy at this stage).

      Roman Grabolle and Raimund Karl have already kindly pointed out that the
      first pictures from the Institute are online at:
      (Diskussionsforum: Archäologie in der Diskussion: Aktuelle Themen: Aufruf:
      Hilfe für das Prager Archäologische Institut!).

      This e-mail has been circulated to the ARCH-L, EuropeanArchaeology and
      Britarch mailing lists: please feel free to forward it to other lists or
      individuals to whom it may be of interest.


      Alastair Millar, BSc(Hons)
      Consultancy and translation for the heritage industry
      Hornicka 1736, CZ 413 01 Roudnice, Czech Rep.
      alastair@... / millar@... / alastairmillar@...
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