Our Summer Postcard Series Continues With a Letter from Charlotte Treadwell ’16
The second in a summer postcard series featuring letters from students, Charlotte Treadwell ’16 writes from Prague where she’s participating in the Global Citizenship Program through Wellesley's Center for Work and Service.
I’m writing this in a dorm about two blocks from Prague’s New Town Hall. “New” is a relative term, since the building dates back to the 15th century. In July 1419, it was the site of the first Defenestration of Prague, which led to the outbreak of the Hussite wars, a series of religious conflicts that lasted until roughly 1434. Monday, July 6, was the 600th anniversary of Jan Hus’s martyrdom; he was burned at the stake on July 6th, 1415. It’s a public holiday here.
Before I visited the New Town Hall, I didn’t realized there were multiple Defenestrations of Prague. The one I've always thought of–in 1618–provoked the Thirty Years’ War when Protestant councilors threw Catholic emissaries out the windows of Prague Castle. Their fall was broken by divine providence (according to the Catholics) or by a conveniently place dung heap (according to the Protestants). After surviving the fall, the Catholics took refuge in Lobkowicz Palace, which is where I’m interning this summer.
The Lobkowicz Collections has a rather romanticized painting of the incident, showing Polyxena Pernštejn, the first Princess Lobkowicz, barring the door of the palace against a Protestant mob while the bruised and battered emissaries cower behind her. Another version of the story says that she actually hid the men under her skirts. (Polyxena was one of the most powerful women in Bohemia, and influential at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor. Talk about women who will.)
I guess that’s a round-about way of getting to the work I’m doing at the Lobkowicz Collections, the largest private collection of historical items (armor, paintings, manuscripts, etc.) in the Czech Republic, accumulated by the Lobkowicz family over many generations. It’s fun telling people that I work at a castle (well, two castles, actually).
My work is varied and engaging because I’m involved with a few different departments, so I never do the same thing two days in a row, and I’m learning how many different facets there are to life at a museum. Some days I do research for articles about various aspects of the Collections’ history; other days I work in the museum’s shop, or enter data in the online catalog.
Tuesdays are definitely my favorite because I travel to Nelahozeves Castle, about 40 minutes from Prague by train, and photograph a collection of 17th- to 19th-century prints. The prints show a really interesting cross-section of European history, reflecting changing interests and values. It’s a different kind of story, following one family’s narrative through hundreds of years.
The best part of this summer (so far) has been the feeling that I’m learning something new every day, whether it’s gaining greater insight into museum operations, discovering more about Prague’s history, or picking up a few more words of Czech.
See you in September, Wellesley. I’m sure I’ll have more stories for you then.
Charlotte Treadwell is a French and history major.