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SNM revives the 1960s

THE 1960s in Czechoslovakia were marked by a brief political thaw that brought an atmosphere of hope, known as the Prague Spring. This hope was, however, abruptly dashed in August 1968 when the armies of the “friendly” countries of the Warsaw Pact marched in and put the politicians promoting “socialism with a human face” back in their place – in a role of submission to the Soviet Union. But the hope for political liberalisation, at least within the limits of the communist regime, was reflected in both the art and the lifestyle of the period.

A typical Czechoslovak living room of the 1960s.(Source: SITA)

THE 1960s in Czechoslovakia were marked by a brief political thaw that brought an atmosphere of hope, known as the Prague Spring. This hope was, however, abruptly dashed in August 1968 when the armies of the “friendly” countries of the Warsaw Pact marched in and put the politicians promoting “socialism with a human face” back in their place – in a role of submission to the Soviet Union. But the hope for political liberalisation, at least within the limits of the communist regime, was reflected in both the art and the lifestyle of the period.

And it is the everyday life of ordinary people in Czechoslovakia that the current exhibition at the Slovak National Museum (SNM) in Bratislava, titled Style and Fashion of the 1960s, strives to present. Arranged in a relatively small collection spanning five rooms, the exhibition provides an adequate image of how people generally lived in the 1960s, with displays of art, ceramics and film posters by professional artists, as well as numerous examples of popular hobbies, including motorcycles, a bicycle and various commodities accumulated by passionate collectors.

Also covered in the exhibition are the camping and hiking trips that often compensated for foreign vacations, which were not always permitted. Music also played an important role in life in the 1960s, although the Czechoslovak style of rock and roll, called bigbít, differed slightly from its western inspiration. In the last room is a display of everyday household items, including period furniture and appliances. Fashion and clothing from the period are also represented in the exhibition.

The exhibition’s curators, Pavel Habáň, Andrej Karaffa and Peter Timföld, managed to bring together items from the SNM’s Museum of History, the Slovak Design Centre, the Museum of Trade, the Destin company, as well as from private owners and collectors. Information in English is plentiful and detailed.

The exhibition may evoke feelings of nostalgia among local inhabitants who lived through the decade, but it should also be of interest to younger generations and foreign visitors, who get a chance to see what everyday life was like in the 1960s, in an exhibition stripped of all ideology and propaganda. Those who remember this turbulent decade as it was experienced in the West can then compare it with life in the 1960s under communism.

Style and Fashion of the 1960s will run in the main SNM, at Vajanského nábrežie 2, until September 15. The museum is open daily, except Mondays, between 9:00 and 17:00 (10:00-18:00 in July and August); final admission is at 16:30. Up-to-date information can be found at www.snm.sk.

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