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Inside the curiosity-cabinet of toilets

A visit to Europe's first toilet museum

Prague – a flourishing cultural city with a wide range of galleries, museums and art. Since 2014, the city is hosting another attraction: The first European museum of historical toilets and pisspots.

Founder Jan Sedláček got interested in the history of hygiene by reflecting over its massive influence on society:
“Lack of hygiene and therefore infectious diseases were the biggest reason for mortality in the past, not wars. Especially the inadequate dealing with excrements caused millions of deaths.”
The aim of the museum is to present the artistic and utilitarian level of the objects themselves and the field of human waste disposal, and present to the public aspects of this neglected part of human culture.
The exhibition illustrates the development to the toilet of nowadays as well as showcasing hundreds of historical pisspots, which differed due to the ´class of population´ they were used by. There are special pisspots for men, women and children, and furthermore the visitor can find various designs and materials – from glass and porcelain to stone, metal or plate. The exhibits are ordered chronologically and sometimes contain references to special historical events – for example the exhibition shows a pisspot that was used on the famous Titanic.

historical pisspot

historical pisspot

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Pisspot out of the chamber of Abraham Lincoln

Visitors can also find a “washiki” – a historical Japanese toilet made out of porcelain. The “washiki” are used by squatting over them – a position, that is in fact generally agreed to be much better for our health and makes splashing-down far easier. Why do we stick to the common, more unhealthy design of our toilets without considering alternatives and getting inspired by other cultures? That is also a question the museum wants to rise.
Next to extraordinary design, Sedláček is especially interested in curious stories accompanying the toilets and piss pots.
“Interesting are the so called ´Bourdalou´ which are named after the French preacher Louis Bourdaloue. It is said that in the France of the late 17th century his preachment was so exciting that the ladies couldn’t hold it anymore, but also didn’t want to miss any of his words. A servant then passed them one of these oval pots, in which they could empty their bladder, covered by their long and wide skirts.”
The first water closet was constructed by Sir John Harrington in 1596 for the Queen of England. But it still would take quite some centuries until toilets with flush would become natural accoutrement in houses - for a long time, Europeans fancied toilet-tables in which the closet was hidden.
Jan Sedláčeks dream is to constantly extend his collection. The next big achievement for him would be to exhibit a space-ship toilet – another proof for how the design of the toilet constantly adjusts to human desires and visions.