Living Museums: where the process of a communal life is preserved

Some open-air museums you probably hadn’t heard of

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By Asmita Sarkar

open air museums

Museums do not only have to contain and display dead things, intricate objects and stones and dead relics of the past. Museums where process of life and culture are preserved are called folk museums, or living museums.

Generally these museums are not confined inside a building; they rather sprawl around a few vast territories and occupy a space that is full with living elements, such as tree shrubs, water and so on.  The concept of open air museums is very similar: living museums started out as history museums, showcasing different eras of history where visitors could re-live history and the ambience of a particular era,  but soon grew larger than that and ended up influencing the way traditional art may be enjoyed.

The most recent development within this trend is the concept of eco-museum, first originated in France: eco-museums take the concept of ecology to a whole new level, since these museums celebrate culture and heritage and hold the assumption that culture and traditions are something that are forged through our relationship with nature. The striking characteristic of these museums is that they revolve around the local population and thrive on the sense of community.

The key philosophy is: museums should not be managed only by a few selected “experts”; rather the local community where the museum is situated, should be actively involved.

Themes in eco-museums vary from history to ecology and local economy.

EXPLORE: 6 amazing eco-museums not to miss

Let’s see a few examples of eco-museums around the world.

Ecomusee-Creusot-Montceau in France celebrates the traditional craft of metallurgy in this region. This traditional craft has sustained the families for generations and this museum preserves the relic of this profession in an intimate natural setting. History and contemporary narrative come together here, because this venue also hosts exhibitions of contemporary art. For example, in July 2010, a few internationally renowned artists came together to explore the theme “structure of time” and effortlessly put their work in the stark surrounding of this ancient work shop.

Another living museum, situated in the heart of Berlin is The Domäne Dahlem.

The themes in this museum revolve around food and agriculture. Among its interesting exhibits : the display of bio-farming, medieval vegetable garden and produce market, which draw a crowd of school children every week.

Now, let’s take a quick look at Japan, where the amazing Hakone Open-Air Museum is located. Opened in 1969, the museum hosts more orthodox artworks than the ones we have previously seen: it features a fine Picasso Collection, as well as artworks by Henry Moore, Churyo Sato and several other world-renowned artists.

This is a place where a peculiar balance of nature and art is created, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery surrounding the museum.

One even more interesting eco-museum is Bergslagen, based in central Sweden. This museum displays the history of the production of iron. This museum entertainingly and intriguingly depicts the evolution of the process of smelting from 400 BC to present days.

open-air museums
Bergslagen, Sweden.

Listed as an UNESCO world heritage site, this museum houses a few typical medieval blast furnace ground. Sounds too geeky? Just remember that this place is full of the quaint charm of a fantasy novel. There are a few replicas of mythical mines that will transport you to a Tolkienian wonderland.

After all history, folklore and myths are just a different version of the same lived experience. When it comes to living museums, lived experiences are the most precious artefacts that are being preserved and the curators will use the most imaginative ways to achieve this goal.

And you? Have you ever visited other open-air museums? Let us know!

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