Open-air museums

RO: Un muzeu în aer liber reprezintă o tipologie diferită de muzeu, care își prezintă colecțiile în aer liber. Primele muzee în aer liber au fost create în Scandinavia, spre sfârșitul secolului al 19-lea, iar conceptul a fost răspândit rapid în Europa, America de Nord și restul lumii, împreună cu dezvoltarea transportului și a turismului.

EN: An open air museum is a distinct type of museum that exhibits its collections outside. The first open air museums were established in Scandinavia towards the end of the nineteenth century and the concept soon spread widely throughout Europe, North America and all over the world, along with the development of transportation and tourism. Open air museums are variously known as skansen, museums of buildings, living farm museums, living history museum and folk museums.

While early European open air museums focus on architecture, later American models focus on representations of daily life, which should properly called a “living history museum”. This type of museum also feature costumes, artifacts, musical or dance performances and historical reenactments.

Living history museums includes living farm museums and living museums, open-air museums where costumed interpreters portray period life in an earlier era. The interpreters act as if they are living in a different time and place and perform everyday household tasks, crafts, and occupations. The goal is to demonstrate older lifestyles and pursuits to modern audiences. Household tasks might include cooking on an open earth, churning butter, spinning wool and weaving, and farming without modern equipment. Many living museums feature traditional craftsmen at work, such as a blacksmith, pewtersmith, silversmith, weaver, tanner, armorer, cooper, potter, miller, sawyer, cabinet-maker, woodcarver, printer, doctor and general store keeper.

Similar cultural exhibitions, such as folk villages, have become popular at historical sites as tourist attractions. Other open air museums focus on specific items that are too large to preserve indoors: ships, railroads and others. Some, such as the ecomuseum, have a thematic focus.

Today, there is a variety of open air museums: traditional, research-based institutions, entertainment centers, tourist attractions  and others. Furthermore, while some focus on exhibiting their collections, others focus on interactive, experiential education. Many museums offer in depth background information about their collections on their websites where visitors can learn more about the exhibits. Because these facilities are popular tourist attractions, they are often places where families and people who seldom visit regular museums can visit and learn about a social, cultural and spiritual history of a tradition. Furthermore, open air museums can help to raise awareness about tribal or local cultures and help preserve their traditions. Furthermore, the popularity of these museums perhaps indicates the value people place on history and diversity in an age of rapid modernization and globalization.

Here is a top of the open air museums in Romania which sums up the finest locations of this kind, from the capital to the border with Ukraine.

Bucharest Village Museum

Founded by Royal Decree in 1936 and covering some 15 hectares on the shores of Lake Herăstrău, Muzeul Satului is one of the greatest outdoor museums in the Balkans. There are more than 60 original houses, farmsteads, windmills, watermills and churches from all of Romania’s historic regions: Transylvania, Oltenia, Dobrogea and Moldavia. Every exhibit has a plaque showing exactly where in Romania it was brought from. Some even now have recorded commentary in four languages (if the stickers are missing, press the second button for English). Most of the houses date from the mid 19th-century, but there are some, such as those from Berbeşti, in the heart of Romania – celebrated for their intricately carved entrances – which date from as early as 1775. The highlight of the museum is probably the steep belfry of the wooden Maramureş church, complete with exquisite but faded icons. You should also not miss the earth houses of Straja, dug in to the ground and topped with thatched roofs, or the brightly painted dwellings of the Danube Delta.

Astra Museum

The museum lies at 4 km from Sibiu in a stunning scenery in the Dumbrava Sibiului Nature Reserve. It is the ideal location to discover the traditional rural Romanian lifestyle while taking a relaxing walk in the middle of the nature. The 10 km of alleys will take you among peasant homesteads, workshops, small wooden churches, roadside crucifixes, sheepfolds, wine cellars, wind and water mills.

The original, perfectly preserved interiors will tell you about the simple life of Romanian peasants from all over the country, their occupations and traditions.

Beyond the amazing rural universe, the museum offers several other entertainment options: boat rides, carriage rides and horse-drawn sledge rides, a restaurant, accommodation, a tourist information centre and playgrounds. In summer, the museum is animated by numerous events – almost no week passes by without a cultural event!

Maramureș Village Museum

Located as you enter the town of Sighet, on the road from Baia Mare, the Village Museum was added to the Ethnographic Museum of Maramureș in 1981 as an open air section. It was a joint enterprise of Mr. Francisc Nistor and of the current Director of the institution, Mr. Mihai Dancus.

The Village Museum, as you see it today, leaves the impression of a typical village from Maramureș. One straight road and several crooked roads or paths make up the inherent structure of the settlement and they all converge as in all Maramureș villages, towards the church.

The wooden homes of hand-hewn timbers represent Jewish, Slavic, Hungarian, German, and Romanian habitations from the 17th and 18th centuries. The houses are preserved intact both inside and out, with original carving on the doorways, and some of the writing in Cyrillic and even Arabic.

The National Ethnographic Park

The National Ethnographic Vuia, established in 1929 which makes it the first open-air museum in Romania, bears the name of its founder and first museum manager, Professor Romulus Vuia. The museum managed to survive through the critical years of the World War II when many of its houses were destroyed.

The exhibited pieces are in fact old traditional buildings, grouped according to their regional establishments, folk architecture monuments, folk installations, craftsman workshops, wells, gateways, big wooden crosses and indoor textiles.  The Ethnographic Museum is the oldest from Romania and the oldest exhibit pieces date back since 1678. The church from Cizer-Salaj, at the construction of which contributed Nicola Ursu (Horea), just before the 1784 uprising, is one of the most beautiful wooden churches in Transylvania, weddings are still being officiated in this architectural monument. Today it stands as one of the best places to discover the traditional peasant life of Transylvania.


Munteanu Sergiu