Museums have long been considered guardians of our shared history and culture, preserving artefacts and knowledge for future generations. Among the various types of museums, living museums hold a unique and invaluable place. These institutions not only showcase historical artefacts but also bring history to life, offering visitors a unique experience.
At Maksima Teacher Training Centre we take care of the representation of cultural heritage and traditions of different types. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of living museums in preserving cultural heritage, what you can expect to see and experience in these exceptional institutions, and why it’s crucial to maintain them.
A Glimpse into Living Museums
Living museums, sometimes referred to as open-air museums or folk museums, are dynamic institutions that combine the preservation of tangible cultural heritage and interactive visitor experience. They are distinct from traditional museums in that they recreate historical settings or environments, often in outdoor locations, providing visitors with an authentic glimpse into the past. Living museums reconstruct one period in time with all of the artefacts and costumes worn by historians on the site. In that way, they preserve and keep traditions and cultural heritage alive.
What Can Be Seen in a Living Museum?
- Historical Settings: Living museums meticulously recreate historical environments, from ancient villages and towns to farms and industrial sites. These settings offer a visual and tangible representation of how people lived, worked, and interacted in the past.
- Traditional Crafts and Trades: Visitors can witness skilled artisans practicing traditional crafts and trades, such as blacksmithing, pottery, weaving, and carpentry. This not only preserves these valuable skills but also allows visitors to appreciate the craftsmanship of bygone eras.
- Costumes and Period Clothing: Many living museums feature costumed interpreters who dress in period clothing, adding authenticity to the experience. These interpreters often engage with visitors, answering questions and providing insights into the historical context.
- Farm Animals and Agriculture: Agricultural practices from the past are often showcased in living museums. Visitors can see heritage breeds of livestock and learn about historical farming techniques, helping to bridge the gap between the present and the agrarian past.
- Architecture and Buildings: Historical architecture is a central element of many living museums. Whether it’s centuries-old houses, windmills, or industrial structures, these buildings are integral to preserving the built heritage of a region.
Why Are Living Museums Important?
- Cultural Education: Living museums offer a dynamic and engaging way to educate the public about their cultural heritage. Visitors can see, touch, and experience history firsthand, making it a more memorable and effective learning experience.
- Preservation of Traditions: By showcasing traditional crafts, trades, and lifestyles, living museums help preserve valuable cultural traditions that may otherwise be lost to time. These traditions are an essential part of a region’s identity.
- Connection to the Past: Living museums provide a unique opportunity for people to connect with their ancestors and understand the challenges and joys of past generations. This sense of connection fosters a deeper appreciation for the heritage that has shaped our present.
- Tourism and Economic Benefits: Living museums can boost local economies by attracting tourists and providing jobs for interpreters, craftsmen, and staff. They also stimulate cultural tourism, which can contribute to the overall growth of a region.
- Cultural Identity: Living museums play a significant role in preserving a community’s cultural identity and transmitting it to future generations. By celebrating their past, communities can strengthen their sense of self and pride.
Learning From Living Museums – Benefits and Tips for Teachers
Living museums hold great importance for teachers across various subject areas. They offer a unique and immersive environment that can enrich the educational experience for students, helping them understand and appreciate concepts in a more practical and engaging manner.
Here’s how living museums can benefit teachers and their students in different subject areas:
Science (Physics, Biology, Environmental Studies)
- Teachers can use living museums with natural settings to illustrate concepts in biology and environmental science. Students can observe and learn about ecosystems, plant life, and wildlife in their natural habitats.
- Physics principles, such as simple machines or the laws of motion, can be demonstrated through historical machinery and tools in action. This practical experience can make abstract concepts more tangible.
- Living museums often feature historical buildings and architectural elements. Teachers can incorporate mathematical concepts like geometry, symmetry, and measurements by analyzing the architecture of these structures.
- Activities related to historical currencies, trade, and economic systems can help students understand mathematical concepts such as currency conversion, trade equations, and economic modeling.
Art and History
- Art teachers can use living museums to explore various art forms, from traditional crafts and folk art to the evolution of art styles over time. Students can create their own artwork inspired by the exhibits.
- Historical settings and artefacts provide a rich context for history lessons. Teachers can illustrate historical events and social changes by visiting period-specific buildings and interacting with costumed interpreters.
Language and Literature
- Living museums are a treasure trove for language teachers. Students can engage in language immersion activities, interact with interpreters speaking in historical dialects, and learn about the evolution of language over time.
- Literature teachers can use living museums to inspire discussions and creative writing. Students can imagine stories set in the historical environments they explore, enhancing their understanding of different time periods.
Social Studies and Geography
- Social studies teachers can benefit from the cultural and historical context provided by living museums. Students can gain a deeper understanding of the cultural practices, traditions, and societal structures of different eras.
- Geography lessons can come to life when students explore the landscapes, ecosystems, and geographical features present in living museums. It makes abstract geographical concepts more tangible.
Cultural Studies and Anthropology
- Living museums are ideal for teaching cultural diversity and anthropology. Students can learn about different cultures, their traditions, rituals, and lifestyles through direct engagement and observation.
- Anthropological concepts, such as kinship structures, cultural diffusion, and the impact of environment on culture, can be better understood through living museums.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Teachers from all subject areas can encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills by presenting students with real-life challenges or historical dilemmas encountered in these settings. Students can analyze and propose solutions based on their observations.
Incorporating living museums into the curriculum provides a holistic approach to education, allowing students to connect with the past and learn in a multisensory and interactive way. It fosters a deeper appreciation for the subjects they study and promotes cross-disciplinary thinking, which is essential for a well-rounded education. Moreover, it offers an opportunity for teachers to break away from traditional classroom settings and engage students in a dynamic learning environment.
Inclusion and diversity in local communities
- Learning from living museums practices and needs, encourage students to engage with local communities to help those in need.
- Engage students in volunteer work within your communities:
- Service learning: let students teach each other about the aspects, events, needs and history of your community. Those experiences promote civic engagement by encouraging students to become active citizens who are aware of and involved in addressing community and societal issues.
- Sustainability goal: to help a community with waste reduction, cleaning actions, and taking care of plants or small gardens for those in need. Recycle or reuse materials for creative workshops; making plant pots, birdhouses etc. Let students make a presentation for their peers to talk about ecological problems and climate change.
- Cultural differences: Organize a discussion event where students can talk about their roots, traditions, community habits, history, art, and other cultural differences. Increase participation, inclusion and diversity in your classroom.
Cultural Heritage and Museum-based Learning Workshops:
- Escape rooms: engage students in creating an ancient civilization mystery, historical event reconstruction or archaeological expedition in an escape room setting. They can uncover the secrets of ancient civilisations, decode hieroglyphs, solve puzzles, examine replicas, recreate events, and connect notes to solve problems.
- Treasure hunt: Identify several locations that are in connection with the historical theme you choose. These could include a museum, a replica artefact display, or relevant historical sites. Create a series of clues or riddles that lead participants from one location to the next. Each clue should provide a hint about the next location and some historical context about the theme. At each location, prepare a challenge or task that participants must complete to earn the next clue. For example, participants might have to solve a hieroglyphics puzzle, build a miniature pyramid, or answer questions about ancient Egypt. For example: Challenge 1: Participants take a photo with a replica Sphinx statue located at the museum entrance. They receive a hieroglyphics puzzle to solve, leading them to the next location. Clue 2: “You’ve deciphered the hieroglyphics! Your next destination is where the pharaohs’ tombs are recreated. Look for the mummy’s sarcophagus to uncover the next clue.”
- Goosechase: Create a game for your students and add missions in your GooseChase profile.
- Mission 1 (Starting Location): “Take a photo with the Sphinx statue at the museum entrance. (10 points)”
- Mission 2: “Solve the hieroglyphics puzzle and provide the translated message. (15 points)”
- Mission 3: “Find the replica sarcophagus and answer questions about mummies. (20 points)”
- Mission 4: “Locate the scarab beetle in the artefact exhibit. (15 points)”
- Mission 5 (Final Location): “Find the ‘pharaoh’s treasure chest’ in the Egyptian artefacts collection. (25 points)”
- Add Clues: Include the written clues as mission descriptions so participants know what to do to earn points.
- Set Locations: Use the “Location” option for each mission to guide participants to the correct spots. Participants can check in at each location.
- Start the game: Once you’ve set up all the missions, start the game and invite participants to join. They can Download the GooseChase app and enter the game code.
- Debate: develop your student’s critical-thinking skills. Set a debate topic: e.g. Should cultural heritage artefact be repatriated to their countries of origin? Two groups with affirmative and negative arguments engage in a debate. Allow students to present evidence and cross-examination periods.
- Drama activities: engage your students with the portrayal of cultural heritage through theatre. Students can research one historical event, folklore, or tradition and create a short script that captures the essence of what they’ve been exploring. A group can rehearse their scenes, and focus on dialogue delivery, characterization and overall stage presence. After that, each group performs their scene for the rest of the students. After each performance, engage in a brief discussion about the drama activity they performed.
- Guess who: students can make a guess who game including a variety of historical personas that they could try to describe to each other.
- Storytelling: these exercises can enhance creativity, encourage expression and develop narrative skills.
- Story Circle:
- Participants sit in a circle.
- Start with a simple sentence to begin a story (e.g., “Once upon a time, in a mysterious forest…”).
- The person to your left continues the story with a new sentence.
- Go around the circle, with each participant adding a sentence to build the narrative.
- Aim for a cohesive and imaginative story by the end.
- Object Story:
- Each participant brings an object that has personal significance.
- Without revealing the object, participants create a fictional story around it.
- Share the story with the group, incorporating details about the object’s history, origin, and significance
- ”I am” game-based learning
- Character Creation:
- Each participant creates a character profile, including name, age, occupation, and a unique trait.
- Share the character with a partner, who then introduces this character into their own imaginary world.
- Partners can discuss how these characters might interact or influence each other’s stories.
- Project-based learning – video postcard: students can go on an adventure and capture amazing sights of your town with their phones. They can also interview locals about their opinions and impressions of heritage sights. After that you can make a video in a simple web application.
- Poetry writing: engage your student in writing poetry inspired by historical events and art. You can use traditional types of songwriting or singing and try to recreate themes or stories.
- Traditional games: research about traditional games that were played long time ago, and use available materials to recreate them and play with your students.
Non-typical living museum: A case of Split, Croatia
Diocletian’s Palace, located in the heart of Split, Croatia, stands not only as a historical landmark but also as a living museum that breathes life into the past. Built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD as his retirement residence, the palace has transcended time, transforming into a dynamic space where history and contemporary life coexist. From the 7th century ordinary people started to inhabitat the palace and they still live inside of it till this day. Architecture inside of the palace change form and function but the life developed and started to expand outside of the palace’s walls.
Living History: Diocletian’s Palace serves as a living testament to the architectural prowess of the Roman Empire. Its well-preserved structures, including the Peristyle, Mausoleum, and Diocletian’s quarters, provide visitors with a tangible connection to ancient Roman life. The palace’s living history is evident in its continuous occupation over the centuries, adapting to various historical periods, from medieval times to the present.
Adaptive Use: Unlike traditional museums, Diocletian’s Palace is not confined to the preservation of artifacts behind glass. Instead, it has seamlessly integrated with the modern life of Split. The palace’s original structures have been repurposed for contemporary use, housing bustling markets, shops, cafes, and residences. This adaptive use allows visitors to experience the historical architecture in a functional way.
Cultural Events: The palace hosts a lot of cultural events, keeping the traditions alive – from music festivals in the Peristyle to theatrical performances in the ancient cellars. These events transform the historical spaces into vibrant stages connecting the ancient and the modern. Folklore dances or Diocletian showing up with his soldiers on Peristyle is only one of the ways of preserving cultural heritage in Split.
Artisan Workshops: Within the palace walls, artisan workshops showcase traditional craftsmanship, echoing the skills of artisans from centuries past. Visitors can witness the creation of handmade crafts, jewelry, and artwork, fostering an appreciation for the artisanal traditions that have been passed down through generations. You can buy local chocolate, olive oil, lavander, jewerly, bags, shoes and more.
Archaeological Discoveries: Ongoing archaeological excavations within the palace complex continue to unveil hidden layers of history. Visitors may chance upon archaeologists at work, uncovering remnants of ancient life. This dynamic aspect adds an element of excitement, allowing individuals to witness the ongoing process of unraveling the palace’s secrets. Inside of the rooms of Split City Museums, centuries-old walls and floor levels have been found. Further interpretations will show us how the palace changed through time.
In essence, Diocletian’s Palace is not a relic frozen in time; it is always vibrant and evolving. As a non-typical living museum, it transcends the boundaries of conventional historical preservation and exhibition.
Living museums are not just repositories of history; they are vibrant, interactive, and vital centres for cultural preservation and education. They offer visitors the chance to step back in time, engage with their cultural heritage, and gain a deeper understanding of the world their ancestors inhabited. By maintaining these living time capsules, we ensure that the invaluable lessons of the past continue to enrich our present and guide our future. So, the next time you visit a living museum, take a moment to appreciate the living, breathing history that surrounds you, and recognize the significance of these institutions in preserving our cultural heritage.
Experience Cultural Heritage with Erasmus+ Courses Croatia Local Experts
Explore the enchanting city of Split, Croatia, with Erasmus+ Courses Croatia’s “Cultural Heritage Education” program. Through experiential and project-based learning led by local experts, you will learn about the city’s rich history, art, and traditions. Engage in hands-on projects and network with other participants. Enjoy cultural sights, museums and Dalmatian region. Cultural heritage and its preservation and interpretation is an important part of Erasmus+ journey – you can be a part of it starting from today. Click on the link and fill out the pre-registration form and join us in sunny Split Croatia.
𝑴𝒂𝒌𝒔𝒊𝒎𝒂 𝑻𝒓𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝑪𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒆: 𝑾𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝑻𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝑴𝒂𝒙𝒊𝒎𝒊𝒛𝒆 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝑷𝒐𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒂𝒍