The distinctive village of Čičmany sits 655 metres above sea level at the spring of the river Rajčianka in the hills of Strážovské vrchy. The first historical mention of the village dates back to 1272. The main source of living was agriculture and rearing livestock such as cattle and sheep. The spread of Sheep husbandry (rearing) was as a result of the Wallachian (or Vlah) colonization which influenced the region’s culture and practices greatly. Due to difficult economic, social and geographical conditions, inhabitants supported themselves through supplementary work. Such work included forestry and many migrated around the Austro-Hungarian Empire working as glaziers. After WWII many sold haberdashery products and woollen slippers known as papuče. Many workers left for France, Austria, Germany and America to work in various seasonal jobs and settled there indefinitely. Those that remained moved to surrounding urban areas to work in large industrial companies.
In spite of poor living conditions, a unique folk culture arose. This attracted the attention of the wider public at the Czech-Slavonic Ethnographic Exhibition in Prague in 1895. At the exhibition people could admire Dušan Jurkovic’s ‘Čičmany Farm house’. The house captured visitors’ attention because of its unique exterior decoration (see picture below) but especially by the fact that it was inhabited by one extended family. Thanks to the exhibitions exposure, tourism to the village and a distinctive folklore from it grew.
Although the village suffered severe fires in 1907 and 1921, new wooden houses were built to replicate the originals that had been destroyed. All of the houses were aesthetically homogeneous, unified by the distinctive lime coating decoration which was originally a form of preventing wood erosion from severe weather conditions. The motifs used were inspired by local embroidery found on clothing garments. In 1979 the village enclosure was deemed a listed area for conservation and protection.
In 1967 the Považské Museum installed an exhibition on folk life in the Radenov House. It showcased embroidered folk costumes, folk art and information about the inhabitants work and domestic customs. In 1986 the Považské Museum bought and installed an exhibition of early 20th Century folk dwellings in House no. 42. It was open to the public a year later. The house had been built in 1913 to replace the old mill, but most interestingly, it was built by the efforts of four families. The front room was inhabited by a glazier named Joseph Gregor and his family and the local forest warden, Jan Chupek-Bednarik and his family. The back room was inhabited by the families of two brothers, Juraj and Peter Pupaks. Each of them owned half of the room respectively, with a bed, a bench and a shelf for tableware. The brick stove and furnace for making bread was shared. Other alterations to the house were made in 1937 and it was inhabited until 1980.
Thanks to the interest of researchers and tourists, a lot of components of Čičmany’s folk culture have been preserved. Čičmany’s wood carvings and embroidery are examples of this. Clothes were adorned with plain-stitch embroidery and cuttings of different cloth were used to make patterns. Mostly simple colours such as white, yellow, orange and reddish-browns were used and squares, broken lines and geometrical shapes represented stars and animals.