Travel topics > Cultural attractions > Historical travel > Living history museums
A living history museum, a type of open-air museum, is meant to be a reconstruction of an entire ancient or prehistoric settlement or a portion of one.
A pioneer village is a form of living museum in which a village-size group of historic buildings is restored to their use in an earlier time period, usually the time of European settlement (see early United States history and Old West). They 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.
The venue can also 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.
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.
- 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, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- 4 Bar U Ranch, near Longview (Alberta), ✉ BarU.Info@pc.gc.ca. Ranging life during the time period 1882-1950
- 5 Barkerville Historic Town and Park, Barkerville (British Columbia), toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. 1860s restored gold rush boom town with a streetscape of 125+ heritage buildings, authentic displays, satellite museums, restaurants, shops and accommodations.
- 6 Batoche National Historic Site (Batoche (near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan)). Métis settlement and site of the last decisive battle of the Rebellion/Resistance of 1885.
- 7 Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Pkwy, North York (Ontario).
- 8 Doon Heritage Village, Kitchener. 22 buildings recreate life in rural Waterloo County in 1914.
- 9 Fanshawe Pioneer Village, 1424 Clarke Rd, London (Ontario).
- 10 Fort Edmonton Park. reconstruction of 1830s fur trade post plus dozens of original and replica buildings relocated to themed zones: 1885 Street, 1905 Street, and 1920 Street.
- 11 Fort George National Historic Site.
- 12 Fort Henry National Historic Site.
- 13 Fort Malden National Historic SIte.
- 14 Fortress of Louisbourg, 259 Park Service Rd, Louisbourg (Nova Scotia). Village-sized historic French military settlement, destroyed after English conquest and later reconstructed.
- 15 Heritage Park, 1900 Heritage Dr SW, Calgary (Alberta), ☏ . One of the largest living historical villages in North America, on 66 acres of land near the Glenmore Reservoir.
- 16 Kawartha Settlers Village, 85 Dunn St, Bobcaygeon (Ontario). A collection of over 20 historic homes and buildings from 1830 – 1935.
- 17 King's Landing, near Fredericton (New Brunswick). United Empire Loyalist village.
- 18 Lang Pioneer Village, 104 Lang Rd, Keene (near Peterborough (Ontario)).
- 19 L'Anse aux Meadows, Route 436, Great Northern Peninsula (Newfoundland and Labrador). (north of St. Anthony), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Archaeological site with reconstructions of three Norse buildings.
- 20 Old Fort Erie.
- 21 Pickering Museum Village, 2365 Concession Rd 6, Greenwood (near Pickering (Ontario)). Depicts live pioneers in 18 heritage buildings.
- Pioneer Village Museum, in Beausejour (Manitoba)
- Sherbrooke Village, open-air museum in Sherbrooke (Nova Scotia)
- 22 Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, 16164 Highway 12 East. Reconstructed Jesuit mission settlement near Midland (Ontario).
- 23 Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village (Село спадщини української культури) (on Yellowhead Highway on eastern edge of Elk Island National Park). shows the lives of Ukrainian Canadian settlers from 1899 to 1930.
- 24 Upper Canada Village, 13740 Hwy 2, Morrisburg (Ontario). Pioneer 1860s village of thirty buildings staffed by skilled tradespersons in costume of the era.
- 25 Village Historique Acadien, 5, rue du Pont, Bertrand (on Rivière-du-Nord near Caraquet (New Brunswick).). Depicts an Acadian community between 1770 and 1939.
- Village Québécois d'Antan, Drummondville (Québec)
- Walter Wright Pioneer Village, Dawson Creek (British Columbia), depicts Dawson Creek before the Alaska Highway.
- Scarborough Historic Museum, 1007 Brimley Rd, Scarborough, ON. Settler village of Scarborough
- 27 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.
- 28 Guédelon Castle (Château de Guédelon), Route départementale 955, 89520 Treigny, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 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.
- 29 Fränkisches Freilandmuseum Bad Windsheim (Bad Windsheim).
- 30 Freilichtmuseum auf der Insel (Stade).
- 31 Ukranenland. A museum depicting what Slavs living in the area may have lived like.
- 32 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.
- 33 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
- 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.
- 34 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).
- Taranaki Pioneer Village, Stratford (New Zealand)
- 35 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.
- 36 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.
- Pilgrim's Rest, partially-restored 1873 gold rush town.
- Seonbichon Village (선비촌), Yeongju, living museum depicting traditional Seonbi life.
- Can Ros, Santa Eulària des Riu, mountaintop village depicts historic life on the island.
- 37 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.
- 38 Skansen, Main entrance from Djurgårdsvägen (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.
- 39 Foteviken Museum, Höllviken, in Vellinge municipality near Malmö. An open-air Viking museum centered around a large Viking settlement reconstruction.
- 40 Bungemuseet.
- 41 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.
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.
- 42 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.
- 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.
- 43 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.
- 44 Skye Museum of Rural Life, Kilmuir, By Portree, Isle of Skye, IV51 9UE, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A semi-recreation of a pre-modern Highland village, consisting of single storey cottages and crofts.
Later periods (19th century)
- 45 Beamish Open Air Museum, DH9 0RG (Off A693 west from Chester-le-Street), ✉ email@example.com. Excellent industrial museum, recreating life in the area during the 19th and early 20th century.
- 46 Black Country Living Museum, 2 Tipton Rd, Dudley (England). Outdoor recreation of the local area on 26 acres (11 hectares), including a coal mine, canal port and rebuilt houses.
- 47 Blists Hill Museum, TF7 5UD. A living history museum and reconstructed Victorian town.
United States of America
- Caesar's Creek Pioneer Village, Waynesville (Ohio), 19 original Quaker buildings from the 1700s and early 1800s.
- Cass County Pioneer Village, Ayr (near Fargo, North Dakota), old barber shop, school, ice cream parlor, bank, gas station, depot and cook shack.
- Colonial Williamsburg, historic area re-creates 18th-century Williamsburg (Virginia) before and during the American Revolution.
- Divide County Museum and Pioneer Village, Crosby (North Dakota), 25 pioneer buildings including a bank, printing press, general store and dwelling shacks.
- 48 Harold Warp Pioneer Village, 138 E US Highway 6, Minden (Nebraska). 28 buildings on 12 acres (4.9 hectares), with 12 of those around a green
- 49 Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, 3200 Indian Village Rd, Mitchell (South Dakota). An archeological site with reconstructed native lodge.
- Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge (Massachusetts) re-creates life in rural New England during the 1830s.
- Pioneer Village, Salem (Massachusetts), 3 acres (1.2 hectares) re-creation of a Puritan village.
- Prairie Village, Madison (South Dakota)
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