2020 March - Documentation Strategies in (Archaeological) Open-Air Museums

There are probably about 3,000 archaeological house reconstructions around the world, most of them in (archaeological) open-air museums. This means we have already a huge amount of information and experience “locked-in” these buildings. The same is true for all other craft activities carried out in open-air museums. A lot of knowledge relating to crafts is known as tacit knowledge, meaning difficult to transfer using words. It is learned through experience. 

Opposed to objects in museum collections, which pinpoint to a specific time and place, in archaeological open-air museums we see the processes behind these, how they were made and used, what role these artefacts played in people’s lives. In the end, our museums are about people and actions. Archaeological open-air museums are a process repository; our museums help preserve the understanding of these, our immaterial cultural heritage. 

This wealth of information could be preserved and used for research and dissemination if documented and made digitally available in a standardised form. Only few archaeological open-air museums have enough qualified staff to carry out standardised documentation. Another factor is that the tacit knowledge locked in many craft specialists can only be really preserved through teaching the next generation.

Ort Berlin