"Do-It-Yourself Work" Museum (Muzeum kutilství) – Polná, Czechia - Atlas Obscura
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"Do-It-Yourself Work" Museum (Muzeum kutilství)

Polná, Czechia



The Czech word “kutilství” does not have a precise English translation. One of the most similar English words is “DIY” (do it yourself), but kutilství has no predetermined procedure or result. Kutilství is a unique creative pragmatic improvisation, almost art. Another similar word is Japanese “chindōgu”, but the intention of kutilství is not absurd, although sometimes the result is an absurd vehicle, or it looks like it is at first glance.

The kutilství always played an important role in the Czechoslovakia before 1989. Plenty of currently usual products were out of reach for most people and the desire to get them led very likely to the fact that handymen made them at home. Material was difficult to obtain, there were many things that ordinary people could not buy at all. Somewhat less stringent stock records system in the companies of that time made it possible to get all the needed materials and parts unofficially. The “do-it-yourselfers” (kutil-man) also showed unusual inventiveness by using things destined for other purposes in a way to make the original product work.

Particularly in the 70´s and 80´s of the 20th century, a figurative phrase related to “golden Czech hands” was applied. In a mess workshop space Czechoslovak “do-it-yourselfers” were able to create probably everything you can imagine. There seems to be no area in which a kutilství could not be found. Among many mass home-made appliances were for instance lawn mowers, disk saws, battery chargers, electric welders, water cookers etc. Also small garden tractors and sometimes totally unique products, such as home-made passenger cars or anti migraine glasses, were produced.

The Kutilství Museum is mapping this interesting period and continuously enlarging its existing collection of 200 exhibits. Each exhibit has its own file record with a description of the history of the product creation, year of production and the author´s name. Only today, after having placed their products in the museum, some of the “do-it-yourselfers” could receive appreciation for their splendid ideas, technical solutions and skills. We will continue to collect further exhibits.

The kutilství is still waiting for its historians who will map this phenomenon, examine it and appraise its contribution to society.

Know Before You Go

Everybody can contribute to the history of kutilství and donate his/her work to the museum.

Before visiting, we recommend contacting the museum to see if it is really open. e-mail: riha@almeto.cz