Journal Article

Peasants on display: The Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition of 1895

Marta Filipová

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 24, issue 1, pages 15-36
Published in print March 2011 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online March 2011 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epq041
Peasants on display: The Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition of 1895

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In the increasingly modernized Central Europe of the late nineteenth century, folk culture, with its alleged ancient character, was still understood by some scholars as the bearer of national identity. The Czechoslavic [sic] Ethnographic Exhibition, which took place in Prague in 1895, aimed to promote the idea of the ethnically unified, but at the same time regionally diverse, identity of the Czech-speaking people living in Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia. Having to negotiate their identity with the ethnic Germans of Bohemia, the Czechs consciously excluded them from the event both as organizers and as exhibitors. The exhibition could therefore be seen as a symptom of its time—in the late nineteenth century Central Europe, locating national heritage was crucial and folk culture played an important role in the national politics, and not only for the Czechs. This article focuses mainly on the ethnographic exhibit entitled ‘the Exhibition Village’, which consisted of an eclectic selection of village houses and their imitations from Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia. On this basis, it explores the political intentions behind the display of folk culture to both urban and rural audiences and brings attention to the question of integration of the diverse regional objects in a utopian national whole. The article thus also aims to demonstrate issues related to the use of folk artefacts for the purposes of cultural nationalism in Austria-Hungary in the late nineteenth century.

Keywords: exhibitions; exhibition design; folk art; national identity; Bohemia; Austria Hungary

Journal Article.  11380 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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