On Quirky Museums

Jar Jar at the toy museum

Everything has a history, so I suppose it makes sense that all sorts of random museums exist to catalogue and display the arcane  narratives of stuff. Now, sometimes a museum does this pretty well (like the charming Museum of Gastronomie that I visited yesterday), but, more often, these quirky little museums offer a hodgepodge of knickknacks and memorabilia without much explanation or coherent curation (like the Toy Museum I visited on Thursday).

I have no idea why Jar Jar made it into that museum along with the statue of Superman.

Superman!

The Toy Museum is nestled in a little tower on the Prague Castle grounds, and rather than doing the standard castle tour, I ambled about the grounds on my own, visiting the St. Vitnus cathedral and this museum.

While I didn’t learn a whole lot about the history of toys, I do think I got a glimpse of the Czch sense of humor. The upper floor is almost entirely devoted to an exhibit about Barbie, and I did learn that Barbie originated as a German cartoon character named Billi. In spite of the popularity of Billi’s cartoons, her doll didn’t sell well in Europe, so the creators sold the rights to Matel (and spend the rest of their lives kicking themselves). That was about the extent of the historical detail offered in the display cases, but there were some delightful cameo appearances amongst the Barbies that went entirely without explanation…

Einstein gets married?

My Flickr gallery for this post has some more little gems, including a really creepy set of stuffed animals. Suffice it to say, I had a grand time in this place, which probably spurred me to investigate the Muzeum Gastronomie that I stumbled across yesterday on my way to someplace else.

The museum devoted to the history of food was cute, and some of the exhibits were quite well done. I mostly appreciated the enthusiasm of the docent who kept popping in to give me little introductions to and lectures on the items in the space.

But the “highlight” of these idiosyncratic establishments was definitely the Sex Machine Museum in the heart of downtown.

Museum Foyer

I’ve only posted a couple of photos to the flickr gallery, since, well, I didn’t take all that many. Some of the stuff in that place is truly horrifying – like the various chastity belts (that I did photograph) and some of the more modern items (that I didn’t). It’s hard to tell how much of the stuff is “real” or not, but I think my favorite item was a pair of (reportedly) Roman sandals worn by a prostitute, the soles of which left imprints in the ground that read “follow my steps.”  (The picture didn’t really come out)

While the displays were rather hit or miss in their signage, and while I really wish they had included more dates, the most interesting part of the place was the posters displaying various patent applications. Again, some of the stuff was terrifying, but this “Anti-Rape Device” from the late 1970s stood out the most. Can’t say I relish the idea of a world in which this thing would be necessary to wear as a regular preventative measure…

Patent Application for an anti-rape device

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