type of museum, in which historical events showing the life in past time periods are performed
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Travel topics > Cultural attractions > Historical travel > Open-air museums

An open-air museum is in its broadest sense any exhibition made up of several buildings with a historical theme. These can be historical buildings on site, buildings relocated from other places, or modern replicas.

Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario, Canada

A living history museum is meant to be a reconstruction of an entire ancient or pre-industrial settlement, or a portion of one.

A pioneer village is a form of living museum in which a village-size group of historic buildings from a New World colony is restored to their use in an earlier time period, usually the time of European settlement (see early United States history and Old West).


Map of Open-air museums

Open-air museums were introduced in the late 19th century, as industrialization and modernization displaced rural folk and indigenous culture. Many nations searched for a common past, and open-air museums became a complement of traditional museum buildings.

The nominal time periods reflected in living history museums can be wide, with some museums reflecting periods as late as the mid 20th century. Often, the village (or at the very least a distinct group of buildings) in such museums is assembled from authentic local historic buildings which are relocated to a common site as a means of historic preservation; this may preserve structures which otherwise would be lost due to urban development or population loss, or destroyed by flooding after construction of a hydroelectric dam. Wooden buildings are relatively easy to dismantle and relocate.

A living museum may not recreate an entire village or settlement; in some cases, just one or a handful of buildings (anything from an individual mill or blacksmith shop to a historic fortress) are restored to operation. Confusingly, the term "living museum" also is often applied to nature museums or protected areas, which are not the same concept.

The target eras for pioneer villages vary, with the "pioneer era" (widespread global colonisation by Europeans in the 1600s and 1700s, ending with adoption of steam power in the Victorian 1800s) among the most popular. Native or Viking settlements are also occasional targets for reconstruction, as a village may represent any era before the adoption of 20th century automation, industrialisation and mechanisation. The term "pioneer village" is colonial in origins and context.

By its nature, the list below is not comprehensive.


Living history museums typically have museum guide staff in period costume carrying out the tasks of tradespeople of that era with traditional methods and tools, including or similar to historical re-enactment.

An open-air museum can be combined with a zoo, usually for local breeds of livestock and local wildlife, or have horse riding, period livestock, dogs and cats integrated with the living history village or farm itself. They can also have agritourism, such as traditional vegetable farming and food processing. If the target period is the Industrial Revolution of the 18th to 20th century, historical machinery and manufacturing methods (including steam power) can be on display. See industrial tourism.

Some open-air museums can include, or be near, more recreational facilities such as an amusement park.


Main Street of Sovereign Hill (Victoria)
  • Pioneer Village Museum, Burnie (Tasmania), covers local economic boom period from 1890-1910.
  • 1 Sovereign Hill, Magpie St, Golden Point (a suburb of Ballarat, Victoria). 1851 gold rush town with sixty historically recreated buildings, costumed staff and volunteers.  
  • 2 Timbertown Pioneer Village, On Oxley Highway, Wauchope (New South Wales). Very good old timber town of the 1880s set on 87 acres (35 hectares).  


  • 3 Bokrijk, Bokrijklaan 1, 3800 Genk, +32 11 265 300, fax: +32 11 265 370, . 10:00—18:00 daily, closed Nov—Apr. Largest living history museum in Flanders, with 148 authentic buildings and a collection of 30,000 historic items in the museum. It mainly focusses on rural life from the 17th century up to the 1950s, with the oldest building dating back to 1507. Threatened historic buildings from all over Flanders were carefully deconstructed and moved to Bokrijk throughout the second half of the 20th century, which now features entire villages consisting of farms, inns, a school, a church, and various craftsmen workshops. Adults €12.5, children €2.    


Sherbrooke Village, Nova Scotia

Czech RepublicEdit


Farm yard in Muhu Museum
  • 27 Eesti Vabaõhumuuseum (Estonian Open Air Museum), Vabaõhumuuseumi tee 12 (Tallinn), +372 6549100. A reconstruction of 18th century rural village with church, schoolhouse, mill, farm houses, windmill, general grocery store and walking trails.    
  • 28 Muhu Museum (Koguva, Muhu). Traditional village in the Muhu island, with open-air museum.  


  • 29 Kuralan kylämäki (Turku). A village of a few farms, telling about countryside life in the 1950s. Period toys and playing equipment. Livestock. Experimental archaeology workshop and related activities.  
  • 30 Luostarivuori Handicraft Museum (Klosterbacken) (Turku). An open-air museum in a former poor residential area, which survived the great fire of 1827. A few of the houses are furnished according to the history of the specific house, while others host period handicraft workshops and dwellings not in that area at the time of the fire. Artisans knowing a period craft get to use the workshops while agreeing to act as guides on it. Guides and other personnel dress in period clothes.    
  • 31 Seurasaari (Fölisön) (Helsinki). An island with houses collected from all over the country. In summer many buildings have museum staff who practice crafts in traditional dress.  
  • 32 Siida (Inari). The Finnish Sámi museum. Outside the museum building is a 7 ha open-air museum including also an archaeologic site.    


Guédelon Castle under construction
  • 33 Guédelon Castle (Château de Guédelon), Route départementale 955, 89520 Treigny, +33 3 86 45 66 66, fax: +33 3 86 45 66 67, . An archaeological experiment started in 1997, the castle has been under construction for 2 decades using only tools, materials, and techniques known in medieval France in that era. All handling, transport, and masonry work is completed with manual labour. As of 2020 construction is nearing completion. The construction site is open to the public and can be visited to collect funds for further construction. Adults €14, students €13, children €11, under 5 free.    


In Germany museums of this kind are often called "Freilandmuseum" (Literally: "open air museum") and may constitute of buildings that were disassembled carefully at their original location and then reassembled at the museum site.


  • 37 Boso No Mura (千葉県立房総のむら chiba-kenritsu bōsō no mura), 1028, Ryukakuji Sakae-machi Inbagun Chiba, Narita. A reproduction of a samurai-era Japanese town street.
  • 38 Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村 'Hida Minzokumura' also known as Hida-no-Sato (飛騨の里)). An attractive open-air museum assembled from real buildings that effectively recreates an entire traditional mountain village. Artisans continue to work in many buildings; you can buy their crafts and even try your own hand at a number of activities.
  • Hokkaido Pioneer Village, on the outskirts of Sapporo


  • Sarawak Cultural Village, reconstructed native settlements, Sarawak


Line of Staatse troops firing at the Spanish enemy at the 2008 reenactment of the Siege of Grolle.
  • Bourtange, a town built entirely inside of a 16th-century pentagonal fort, which was fully restored in the 1960s to its state in the 1740s.
  • 39 Nederlands Openluchtmuseum, Schelmseweg 89, Arnhem. A 44-hectare museum that sets out to document the Netherlands' history.    
  • Groenlo holds a bi-annual reenactment of the 1627 Siege of Grolle (Groenlo).
  • 40 Archeon, Archeonlaan 1, Alphen aan den Rijn (N11, exit 9 "Alphen aan den Rijn Centrum", turn left at first roundabout), +31 172 447 744, . Wed-Sun: 10:00 - 17:00. Open-air and archaeological museum focussing on the early Dutch history (during Prehistory, the Roman and Medieval age).    
  • 41 Dickens Festijn, Bergkwartier, Deventer. Annual event in Deventer centring around the characters of Charles Dickens. The event is often combined with Christmas activities. The entire Bergkwartier, one of the oldest parts of Deventer, is transformed into a Victorian-era style, with re-enactors roaming the streets, attracting around 120.000 visitors each year.  
  • 42 Historical Festival Almelo, Schapendijk, Almelo. Re-enactment event of the French age (1795 - 1815) in Almelo, specifically focussing on the Battle for Ruigerode, a fictional battle in Napoleontic style. In reality, Bonaparte never visited Almelo, but his brother Louis Napoleon, King of Holland under French overlordship, did. The event has about 700 re-enactors, and attracts several tens of thousands of visitors.  
  • 43 Gebroeders van Lymborchfestival, Grote Markt, Nijmegen. Medieval music and theatre festival in Nijmegen, in which around 700 re-enactors roam the streets of the city centre, displaying the daily life in the Duchy of Guelders from 1350-1450. Highlight is the "Blijde Incomste" (Delighted Entrance) on the Sunday afternoon, in which the landvoogd (Advocatus) enters a town or city in a large parade of festivities.
  • 44 Openluchtmuseum Eynderhoof, Milderspaât 1, Nederweert-Eind, . Open-air museum which aims to relive the daily life in the Peel Region around 1900, featuring around a dozen houses and workplaces.  

New ZealandEdit

  • Taranaki Pioneer Village, Stratford (New Zealand)
  • 45 Founders Park, Nelson. A collection of historic buildings that were re-located from sites in Nelson, many with interior mini-museums or historical displays. There is also an organic brewery (the only one in the Southern Hemisphere) with an attached cafe that serves good meals. There is also a craft bakery, and a chocolate shop, and a railway that runs on weekends.


  • 46 Norsk Folkemuseum (Oslo). Founded in 1894 and built in parallel with Skansen in Stockholm, during the Swedish-Norwegian union. Contains several indoor exhibition as well as farms from most Norwegian provinces.    
  • 47 Guovdageainnu gilišillju (Kautokeino bygdetun) (Kautokeino). Museum for Sámi arts, culture and history, including an open-air museum.  


Village Museum in Bucharest
  • 48 Village Museum (Muzeul Național al Satului „Dimitrie Gusti”), Șoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff, 28-30, Bucharest. An open air museum created in 1934, it now has around 300 traditional buildings (including churches, workshops, mills) and furniture, pottery, clothing gathered from villages in every region of the country in an effort to showcase the traditional way of life of the Romanians. Occasionally hosts folkloric and traditional crafts festivals.    

South AfricaEdit

South KoreaEdit

Nagan Folk Village
  • Seonbichon Village (선비촌), Yeongju, living museum depicting traditional Seonbi life.


  • Can Ros, Santa Eulària des Riu, mountaintop village depicts historic life on the island.
  • 49 Poble Espanyol. a "typical Spanish village" built for the 1929 World's Fair in Barcelona that - much like e.g. the Eifel Tower - was to be torn down after the World's Fair but remains to this day.    


See also: Vikings and the Old Norse, Nordic history
  • 50 Skansen (Stockholm/Djurgården). Founded in 1891, Skansen is the world's oldest open-air museum, containing a zoological garden specializing in Nordic fauna, such as moose, reindeer, bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine. It features over 150 historic buildings from previous centuries, from all parts of Sweden. Guides in historic costumes further enhance this attraction, and demonstrate domestic crafts such as weaving, spinning, and glass blowing. The Skansen area is fairly large (700 metres across) with steep slopes and limited public transport (there is a funicular and an escalator to the upper area) so be prepared for long walks.
  • 51 Foteviken Museum, Höllviken, in Vellinge municipality near Malmö. An open-air Viking museum centred around a large Viking settlement reconstruction.    
  • 52 Bungemuseet (Northern Gotland). Open air museum with many old buildings.  


  • 53 Open-Air Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life (Музей народної архітектури та побуту - Muzey narodnoyi arkhitektury ta pobutu), Krasnoznamennaya street, 1, Pyrohiv (near Kyiv). 19th-century Ukrainian life is depicted in six restored rural villages with old huts, wooden mills and churches from all over Ukraine. Description is primarily Ukrainian-language, although some guided tours in other languages are available.

United KingdomEdit

The UK has a number of open-air museums, a number of which have 'living history' elements. Not all the museums listed here have re-enactors.

Wax candles are home-made at Ulster American Folk Park
  • 54 Auchindrain Museum (6 miles south of Inveraray). Skansen-type recreation of a farming township circa 1800, on a 22 acre site.    
  • 55 Cosmeston Medieval Village, Near Lavernock in the Vale of Glamorgan (Wales). Re-creation of 14th-century peasant life in the Late Middle Ages, groups of re-enactors camp in tents around the village outskirts and perform historical combat displays.    
  • 56 Living History Village of Little Woodham. Seventeenth century village on ancient woodland in Rowner (on the Gosport peninsula, Hampshire). Gosport Living History Society villagers dress in costume to talk about Charles I, the impending war between the King and Parliament, their village life and day-to-day existence as if it were the summer of 1642.    
  • 57 Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, near Kingussie. Open air museum of ordinary highland life based in nearby Newtonmore.    
  • 58 Ulster American Folk Park, Castletown, County Tyrone (near Omagh, Northern Ireland). Historical lifestyle and experiences of immigrants who sailed from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries. 30 buildings, agricultural displays and animals, samples of local foods such as smoked salmon and bread, volunteers in period costume demonstrate bread making, cooking, arts and crafts, embroidery, spinning and printing.    

Later periods (19th century)Edit

See also: Industrial Britain

United States of AmericaEdit

See also: Early United States history, From Plymouth to Hampton Roads, Old West
Covered bridge at Old Sturbridge, Massachusetts
  • 69 Plimoth Patuxet (formerly Plimoth Plantation), 137 Warren Ave (Plymouth). A historical farm and living history museum renowned among academic historians and history-recreation buffs alike. Includes a 1627 living history reenactment of early colonial life where visitors can roam the village, enter the homes, and interact with colonists who stay in character. There is also a recreation of a Wampanoag homesite of the period staffed with interpreters who trace their ancestry to Native tribes, and a 17th century craft center where clothing, candles, pottery, and other items are made by hand.    

See alsoEdit

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List of open-air and living museums