Museum of Puppet Cultures and Toys SNM in Modrý Kameň

The little town of Modrý Kameň lies in south-central Slovakia, not far from the town Veľký Krtíš. Above the town the ruins of a Gothic castle lie. If visitors come closer, they will be suprised. Next to the castle there may be found a Baroque mansion which houses the Museum of Puppetry and Toys, a branch of the Slovak National Museum.
The predecessor of the museum was the District Museum of Home Studies in Veľký Krtíš, whose director – historian and puppeteer Dr Vladimir Sivacek (1942-2005) – came up with the idea of founding a museum of puppets and toys in 1990. In 2004 Sivacek was awarded honorary membership of the International Union of the Marionette (UNIMA).
The Museum was launched under the expert auspices of the Slovak UNIMA Centre, then headed by chairwoman Ida Hledikova and other members such as Anton Dusa, Jana Pogorielova-Dusova and Miroslav Dusa (who created the first exhibition), with the active participation of all five professional regional government theatres as well as of private collectors. The prominent Slovak puppeteer and collector Anton Anderle (1944-2008) also helped to found the museum.
Through their collective efforts, a permanent exhibition entitled Slovak Theatre Puppets opened on 1 May 1995. Professional puppet theatres in Slovakia were the first to donate numerous rare exhibits and artefacts that demonstrate and illustrate the development of puppet theatre making in Slovakia.
Traditional Slovak marionette and puppet theatre is represented in the collection of the museum by historical puppets and little theatres of the puppetry families of Strazan, Dubsky and Anderle. Slovak folk puppet theatre is represented by a wooden džafkulína (nativity picture) from Lendak, which was made in the workshop of artisan Master Gontkovsky and reflects a specific north Slovak Christmas tradition similar to the Polish šopka.
Stapfro’s little theatre from 1935, Als’ puppets and other family theatres acquired from private collectors Igor Rymarenko and Anton Anderle, and puppets donated by Czech tennis player and Wimbledon winner Jan Kodes represent the era of family theatres in the former Czechoslovakia.
One of the biggest collections comprises puppets produced by professional designers and artists of the Slovak puppet theatres. The collection includes puppets made and donated by Jana Pogorielova, Bohdan Slavik, Hana Ciganova, Eva Farkasova, Miroslav Dusa and Peter Cisarik, together with puppets by the Czech artists Karel Hejcman and Ivan Antos who collaborated with Slovak colleagues, and some puppets of the Polish designer Zigmund Smandzyk and others.
The designer Jana Pogorielova, who has worked in almost all of the Slovak puppet theatres, has also designed puppets for theatres in Germany, the former USSR, Poland, Bulgaria, France and Austria. However, the major part of her creations is connected with the Puppet Theatre in Košice. Pogorielova has donated a selection of her life’s works, including artefacts used in productions such as Zlatý vábnik (‘The Golden Lure’), Pinocchio, Koníček Hrbáčik (‘Little Hunchback Horse’), Materina dúška (‘Wild Thyme’), Krása nevídaná (‘Beauty Never Seen’), Mauglí and Cisárov slávik (‘The Emperor’s Nightingale’). The collection also includes puppets used in TV productions in Košice and Bratislava.
The museum also preserves puppets from the former Puppet Theatre in Nitra (now Karol Spišák Old Theatre in Nitra) dating from the 1950s, the early years of professional puppet theatres in Slovakia. These were owned by the founder of what is known as the Nitra Javajka School of Jan Romanovsky. Puppets used in the production of O Rámovi a Síte (‘About Rama and Síta’), directed by Jan Hiznay and based on the old Indian epic the Ramayana, date from a later period.
The greatest number of exhibits comes from the Žilina Puppet Theatre – these include miniature furniture and theatre masks typical of the 1960s and 1970s.
Apart from collection and exhibition activities, the museum organises numerous accompanying events for the public. Helena Ferencova is the present Director of the Museum.