Retro museum to showcase Czechoslovak life in the 1970s and ’80s

The fourth floor of Prague’s Kotva department store will be home to thousands of items from the Normalization era.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 23.03.2022 16:10:00 (updated on 23.03.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

A new museum opening in Prague in May will explore the design, trends, and everyday life in the 1970s and ’80s in Czechoslovakia. It will also include an exhibition on the role of dissent and communist propaganda. The goal is to present this era to the younger generation.

From the second half of May 2022, people will be able to visit Retro muzeum Praha (Retro Museum Prague) in the Kotva department store, which is a fitting venue. Built in the first half of the 1970s in the Brutalist style by architects Věra Machoninová and Vladimír Machonin, it is now a cultural monument.

Kotva’s entire fourth floor, with an area over 2,000 square meters, will display some of the almost 12,000 objects that were acquired through a national collection in 2018. The museum isn’t trying to depict a nostalgic or idealized look at life in Czechoslovakia.

It will present a more complex view of dressing, eating, and spending free time in the era of Normalization, so people can understand the atmosphere and the overall characteristics of the time. Normalization was the era following the Soviet-led invasion that ended Prague Spring. It was marked by harsh reforms that ended efforts to create a more open socialist society.

Vintage Škoda car. Photo: Retro muzeum Praha
Vintage Škoda car. Photo: Retro muzeum Praha

“We would like to bring this time closer to the younger generations and remind the older generations what it was like to live in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and 1980s. We believe that the museum will be interesting for visitors and unique in its interactivity and in a way,” Robert Vůjtek, chairman of Art Salon S, said.

Vůjtek has already held 40 exhibitions in Prague’s Dancing House and other venues across the country. These include previous shows focused on Normalization life as well as exhibitions of film costumes, toys from the socialist era, glass art by Bořek Šípek, and several exhibitions of illustrator Kája Saudek.

The new museum will give a second chance to objects that are often lost in the annals of history, even though they can tell a lot about history.

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“We believe that by capturing everyday life, we will bring this time closer to those who did not experience it,” Vůjtek said.

Retro muzeum Praha is also launching a collection on the Hithit.cz crowdfunding platform, so people can contribute to the completion of the museum. Contributors can buy a ticket for themselves or the whole family, get an interactive retro game for children, or get one of 10 Kotva saleswomen’s cloaks from the 1970s. Other benefits include private tours.

Retro muzeum Praha will be operated by the Art Salon S association, founded in 2014. The project will create 15 new jobs, especially for people with disabilities. The association seeks to support the employment of disadvantaged people in the long term.

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