The Danish Police Museum and the Criminology Museum in Rome remain two of my most popular posts, so I wanted to carry on the tradition by visiting the Czech Police Museum, despite reading beforehand that virtually nothing was in English. Perhaps surprisingly, given the subject matter, the museum is housed in a prettily painted building that used to be a monastery (and sick house), in a secluded spot at the end of a residential street. Admission is a mere 30 CZK (about 80p), so I figured even if I couldn’t read anything, at least I wasn’t wasting very much money on it.
Well, I may have not been able to read any of the captions, but I definitely got my money’s worth, because the museum is massive! A lot of the main portion of the ground floor wasn’t terribly interesting, as it just consisted of photos with a lot of Czech text, so I didn’t really know what was going on. But there were smaller rooms off the main gallery (which wrapped all the way around the building), and these were more promising.
One of the highlights of the museum used to be the preserved body of a police dog called Brek, who apparently was used to “sniff out” dissidents during the Communist era (sounds a bit grim really), but I think he’s now buried in the grave out back. However, there’s still a stuffed dog in there, so he presumably either isn’t real, or is the body of some other German Shepherd. I didn’t touch it or anything, but the fact that it was just sitting out on the floor and not in a glass case or anything makes me suspect it was probably not a real taxidermied dog.
As always, I was excited to see the murder section, which contained some death masks of executed criminals, a suitcase that once held a dismembered torso of a woman (bloodstains intact), and a mysterious plank with a box attached that I couldn’t quite figure out the purpose of. Lo and behold, I found a video player in the next room with English translations available, and learning more about the plank/box was one of the options. To be honest, I really wish I hadn’t pressed that button, because I was a lot happier not knowing what it was. I’ll spare you the details; they made me feel sick to my stomach (and this is coming from someone who reads a lot of historical crime nonfiction) but suffice it to say it was a torture box designed by a serial killer. So yeah, you may want to skip the videos unless you don’t mind learning more than you bargained for. I should also say that there were a lot of very graphic photos of murder victims who’d literally been hacked to bits, so if you have a weak stomach (I generally don’t, except where torture is concerned I guess), I’d maybe skip this section of the museum (it’s pretty much all concentrated in two rooms, so it would be easy enough to skip).
The only other English part was another video player in the forensics section, which was safe enough for those of a less macabre bent, but kind of boring as it was all basic info about the history of forensics that I already knew from visiting a number of these types of museums. I think there was meant to be some interactive stuff in the forensics section, but none of it seemed to be working properly, and it was all in Czech besides.
I was already satisfied I’d gotten my 80p’s worth after seeing the ground floor, but there was still a whole other floor above us, so we went to check it out. You weren’t supposed to take pictures in the museum, but we couldn’t resist snapping a few shots in the black light room (in my defence, it didn’t contain any sensitive information or anything, but I probably still shouldn’t have done it). I think this was supposed to show the effects of taking hallucinogens, presumably to deter visitors from using them; however, I gotta say that this room was awesome, so they may want to rethink their anti-drug campaign if this is it. Same thing with a different room warning about the effects of partying too hard, with its thumping bass and unintentionally funny tableaux. I was glad these things were there though, since a good chuckle was much needed after learning about that awful torture box.
Alas, there were still some depressing stuff up here, namely a guillotine room/shrine with mournful music. As far as I could work out, it was dedicated to victims of the Nazis who had been executed on the guillotine (I’m not sure if the one there was the actual one used…I kind of hope it wasn’t, but it may well have been).
In what I think was another attempt to brighten things up, the last room was completely full of children’s art. I don’t know why, unless it was, as I said, just to cheer visitors up before they left, because most of it was very cute (especially the elephants), but it did seem oddly out of place. I feel like at many points in the museum some English would have been an enormous help; that said, I’m probably not their target audience, so maybe the demand for it just isn’t there. But really, even just a guidebook with a basic description of all the rooms, like they gave us at the Police Museum in Denmark, would have been tremendously useful, and might attract more visitors. As it stands, I think this was the most depressing police museum yet (based on subject matter, not the lack of English).
After leaving the museum, we headed out the back way, which seemed to be set up like some kind of driving obstacle course. There was also the grave of Brek, that police dog. I’m not sure why he’s shown such reverence if he was actually used to harm dissidents…not that it’s the dog’s fault, but strange nonetheless.
Due to the complete lack of English inside the museum (except for those videos), I left with far more questions than answers, but to be fair, I knew what to expect language-wise coming in, so that was my own fault. Still, for 80p, I think it was alright, as there was plenty to look at, and I did enjoy the anti-drug displays (though perhaps not in the way they intended). So I’ll give it 3/5, but reiterate my warning that much of it is pretty gruesome, and you won’t understand most of what is in the museum unless you read Czech, so it certainly isn’t for everyone. And on a slightly cheerier note (I suppose…), I’m turning thirty tomorrow, so in addition to a few more Prague posts, if all goes to plan, I’ll have a few more awesome-looking museums to tell you about when I return from my birthday trip!