Open Air Museums and cultural tourism

History, part of our future economy?

Artur Hazelius
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“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see” said Churchill.  And Skansen, one of the first open-air museums, has been looking back since it was founded by Artur Hazelius in 1891.  This tourist destination on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm lets visitors glimpse local life, cultural activities and wildlife in earlier times.

Click here for the Skansen web-site.   With an area of 300,000 sq metres, (30 hectares or 74 acres in real money) Skansen is but a fraction of the area of Hadleigh Country Park.

The equivalent Open Air museum in Latvia opened in 1924. Click here for their web-site.    They have collected local cultural elements and their historic use to preserve the cultural heritage of buildings, surroundings and objects of everyday life and work.

As Pauls Kundzins,  the Latvian museum’s founder and director of construction remarked in 1932:  “Perhaps we need to remember the wise words of Artur Hazelius, the founder of the Skansen open-air museum in Sweden: The day may come when all of our gold will not be enough to show us the vanishing past.”

The third example is from Graz in Austria, where the open air museum at Stübing celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Click here for their web site.     Sited along a sloping 2 Km valley are 100 genuine farmsteads from the last 600 years across Austria. Live displays show how people built, lived and worked in rural areas.

In Hadleigh and Thundersley, we have some similar events: e.g.  in our own larger-than-life Saxon Roundhouse.  During the Team Hadleigh work of Hadleigh School, the children created great visions for leisure and sport across the Hadleigh Country Park. Why not build on the success of the Olympic event to think imaginatively about preserving local knowledge and buildings in ways that complement economic development, whether an Open-air Museum concept or otherwise?

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