IN AN inconspicuous suburb of Bratislava which until quite recently used to be a separate village, there is a museum which is unique in Slovakia, and has few equals in the whole of Europe: the Múzeum obchodu / Museum of Trade. Lodged in a picturesque mansion from the second half of the 18th century, it houses a collection of about 60,000 exhibits connected with shops, trade and pubs. Not all of them are shown in the mansion of Juraj Albert – many travel to other museums in Slovakia or the Czech Republic.
But the head of the museum, Marcel Juck, complains that its location works against efforts to draw more visitors, especially locals, explaining that Bratislavans tend to be reluctant to travel to the outskirts of the capital – and that even if they do, Podunajské Biskupice, the suburb where the museum is located, has never been a popular destination for weekend trips or hiking, like Rača, Koliba, or other districts. So to draw more people to the museum the historian and drummer started organising concerts on the first floor of the mansion. “It started with an event on the annual Night of Galleries and Museums and originally, it happened really only on this day. But since November 2008, this has developed into the Rock v múzeu / Rock in the Museum project that brings artists and audiences to the museum once or twice a month. Most of the year, concerts play in the permanent exhibition – only in summer do we try to give open-air gigs in our garden.”
Juck explains that from the initial, broader focus on genres like rock, blues, and alternative music, it is now mostly rock and blues that is preferred – and performed – in the specific, very narrow space of the museum. The concerts mean that more people come to the museum and, willingly or unwillingly, also see the exhibits.
The head of the museum describes the concert space as very unusual, with a tiny, narrow stage and an equally narrow space for audiences. He adds, however, that except for Canadian blues-rock musician Peter Travers, who was quite nervous because the stage (and the failing instruments), musicians rather enjoy the special venue – only 4 metres wide and with unusual acoustics – and have kept returning, some as many as three times. Visitors might feel like they are in a bus, while band musicians are forced to sit behind one another, which is quite unusual.
The Museum of Trade opened in 1983 and, during a period when exhibits were moved to Klobušice near Ilava while the Juraj Albert mansion was reconstructed, it was refurbished and reopened in 2006. It presents artefacts and archival items mainly from the first half of the 20th century including scales, cash desks, tanks for coffee and tea, ceramic vodka bottles, metal advertising boards, and much more. Juck says there are plans to re-create a historical pub on the premises and show people how beer was brewed and tapped in the past, but adds that financial problems mean the plans have so far come to naught.