There is a small museum in Prague, not far from the Vltava River, that is truly a celebration of “form follows function.” In its collection of historical chamber pots and toilets there is a wide array of forms, all for one bodily function (or maybe two).
The unusual collection features more than 2,000 pots, seats, thrones, loos, lavs—and just about anything else you can think of out of the water closet. That includes artifacts of some pretty famous people, which might not otherwise have such a scholarly place of exhibit.
There is an Abe Lincoln (traced back to his actual White House bedroom), a Napoleon (made for the Emperor when he was in exile, although it got rejected at the last minute), and one belonging to a Chinese emperor from the Qing dynasty. There’s even one from the Titanic.
It started in 2003 with a collection that, at the time, consisted of only two things: one stone privet and one dry toilet, both with some impressive provenance. They were saved from a trip to the scrap heap by the team that now runs the museum, when they were working to renovate the historic Třebotov fortress outside of Prague. The two pieces so interested them, they started hunting for more in antique shops, thrift stores, auctions and flea markets.
Now you’ll find mini chamber pots for dolls, unusual urinals and bedpans, and other toilettes and pots de chambre traceable to important or historic events among the collection. Other pieces are simply average, everyday examples of how we’ve managed to get rid of our waste over the course of history. Many are beautiful and elegant in their simplicity, and others are ornate and flashy in design and materials. But they all share one thing: They carry with them a shitload of our most human past.
Update January 31, 2017: The museum used to be located in Vyšehrad, but has been closed due to relocation to new premises. The museum will be reopened at Michalská 1 in February 2017 with a new name, the Hygiene Museum.