History

The Vaclav Havel Library Foundation was established as a nonprofit organization with headquarters at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan, which has been an important center for Czech and Slovak culture in New York City for more than one hundred years. Co-chaired by Madeleine Albright, Laura Bush and Dagmar Havlova, the VHLF is supported by a broad spectrum of American political leaders united in support of Havel’s name and inspiration.

The inaugural meeting of VHLF’s Advisory Board occurred in May 2012 following “Celebrate Havel,” an event at the Lincoln Center organized by The Foundation for a Civil Society, the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, the Czech Center New York, and the Havel Library in Prague. At the meeting, the VHLF Board of Directors was formed.

On September 7, 2012, VHLF Board Chairman Craig Stapleton convened the first meeting of the Václav Havel Library Foundation’s Board of Directors. At that meeting, the Board nominated and approved Ambassador Martin Palous as President of the Foundation.

On September 11, 2012, VHLF received its official IRS 501(c)(3) charitable designation.

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Havel Workshop at New York Public Library

The Planning Workshop entitled The Legacy and Sources of Vaclav Havel and his Era took place on October 13, 2013, at the New York Public Library and the Bohemian National Hall. It was prepared by the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation, the New York Public Library, the Harriman Institute and East Central European Center of Columbia University and made possible through the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund. VHLF hired consultant Edward Kasinec, former Curator of the New York Public Library’s Slavic & Baltic Division and current Harriman Research Scholar, as organizer and facilitator for the all-day workshop. The purpose of this event was to create a working plan among participating organizations for gathering, sharing, digitizing, and making publically available Havel-related material.

The prominence of both Columbia University and the New York Public Library helped to make planning easier and attracted highly qualified and distinguished participants and attendees. Ten archival experts gave presentations to the approximately fifty attendees on topics such as copyright management issues relating to the establishment of an archive, considerations in acquiring and making available material digitally, and historical perspectives necessary for framing the creation of archives. Anthony W. Marx, President and CEO of the New York Public Library, Alan Timberlake, Director of East Central European Center at Columbia University, Mary Lee Kennedy, Chief Library Officer at the New York Public Library, Robert H. Davis, Jr., Librarian at Columbia University and Cornell University Libraries, Marta M. Deyrup, Librarian and Professor at Seton Hall University, Janice T. Pilch, Rutgers University Libraries, Jonah Bossewitch, Lead Technical Architect, Center for New Media Teaching and Learning at Columbia University Libraries, and Peter B. Kaufman, Founder and President of Intelligent Television were among the speakers.

Following the expert presentations, VHLF held an open and moderated discussion among attendees to identify possible actionable steps through which VHLF could cooperate with participant organizations and institutes. The overwhelming response by attendees was the desire to work with VHLF, with the majority of attendees voicing particular interest in two programs: the initiation of a “mapping” project of libraries and archives in North America and the creation of a comprehensive program to interview and film notable individuals connected to former President Havel.

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Havel Bust at the U.S. Congress

Thanks to the efforts of the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation in collaboration with the American Friends of the Czech Republic, on March 11, 2014, the House of Representatives unanimously approved H. Res. 506, which states “that to honor the life and legacy of Václav Havel, the House of Representatives Fine Arts Board shall provide for the display of an appropriate bust of Václav Havel in the House of Representatives wing of the United States Capitol.”

A bust of Vaclav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, was dedicated at a U.S. Capitol ceremony on Wednesday, November 19 2014. The bust by Lubomir Janecka was unveiled by Mrs. Dagmar Havlova. The official speeches for the event were delivered by John Boehner, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, and Congressman Ed Royce. The Czech Republic was represented by Jan Hamacek, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament, and the Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

After Winston Churchill, Raoul Wallenberg and Lajos Kossuth, Havel is only the fourth European to be honored by the U.S. Congress in this way.

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