Death by Yawning

Open-air museums are inappropriately named. For many people, Museum + History = Death by Excessive Yawning. Not me! A good open-air museum can transport me into other cultures and the past. I think a better name for such a site is ‘living museum’.

Latvia Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

In southern Laos, we spent an afternoon at a spot with traditional tribes’ homes. My favorite was the thatched home on stilts. In the middle of the night, a courting youth has to climb a ladder and wait for a signal through a strategically located hole in the wall. The young woman has to approve his advances. Only then can he climb in the window…

Olde Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts was a hands’ down childhood favorite. The site still knocks me out. Paid artisans and trained volunteers dress in period clothing and demonstrate everything from making horse shoes to ginning cotton. Olde Sturbridge contains “the best collection of early 19th-century rural New England artifacts in the world”. [1]

Another favorite open-air museum is Neuhausen ob Eck (amusingly named ‘New Home on the Eck’), located not far from Tuttlingen and Konstanz in southern Germany. In the bee keeper’s house, I learned all about the world of bees. The German language holds bees in special regard. In German, the word for animals is Bestie or Tiere, beasts. But Germans speak of the Bienenvolk, a hive or literally ‘the bee people’, granting them a status with humans. In the Middle Ages, if the bee keeper died in the night someone was sent to the hives to whisper the news to the bees.

The bee keeper enjoyed a special status. Thanks to his bee family he produced wax candles for light, honey for food, and pollen products for medicine. [2]

Fishing nets, Latvia Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

Outdoor museums can teach with their simplicity. On our recent trip to Estonia and Latvia, we spent a day at Latvia’s Ethnographic Open-Air Museum on the shore of Lake Jugla. [3] The spot is incredibly atmospheric.

It’s an easy bus ride from the capitol Riga to the museum. (Go to my recent post Food as Art and salivate over the delicious foods you can order in Baltic restaurants.)

What I learned is that as recently as 100 years ago life here was a different story.

Existence was harsh and hard, like the overcast skies much of the day we visited. [4] Along with simple huts, the site includes windmills.

A store building is filled with dowry chests and traces of Latvia’s long history serving in the Hanseatic League.

My takeaway: How truly thin the veneer of prosperity is. Our sense of progress and the advance of civilization is so recent, and so young. I left grateful for the things I take for granted in my everyday life. In too many places in the world people still live without electricity, running water, or centralized heat.

NOTES: [1] https://www.osv.org/ Go to my earlier posts Old Sturbridge Village Part 1 and 2 for photos and the story of our visit. [2] Honey-based products never rot. I purchased a propolis salve at Neuhausen a decade ago; it’s still good. The bee keeper told me the salve can be used on everything from wounds and burns to arthritis and herpes. Neuhausen-ob-Eck [3] Latvia Ethnographic Museum  [4] For Game of Thrones fans, I kept thinking of the Iron Islands and how craggy-rocks bitter life is there. These Latvian houses would fit the scenes perfectly, except for the fact that Game of Thrones is a fantasy world. Real people lived in the huts as recently as the start of the 20th Century.

© Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

New England's Old Sturbridge Village, Part 2

Town common
Town Common

We visited Massachusett’s Old Sturbridge Village in the fall, the perfect time to enjoy this open air museum.DSC_6370

DSC_6368

Freeman Farm Sturbridge, Massachusetts, c. 18081725
Freeman Farm
Originally from Sturbridge, Massachusetts, c. 1808

The costumed employees and volunteers at Old Sturbridge harvest the land as the earlier settlers would have. DSC_6372

DSC_6371Apples, pumpkins and squash had been carefully collected, sometimes in unexpected free spaces. The settlers needed a dry area away from weather and animals, and floor space was a great (and, one hopes, temporary) storage spot. DSC_6377

Crops needed to be gathered while other jobs still had to be performed.

Printing Office Worcester, Massachusetts, c. 1780
Printing Office
Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, c. 1780

Men and boys set type and did the printing, while women stiched and bound books. Country printers also brought out pamphlets, broadsides, sermons, legal forms, advertisements, and public notices.

Vermont Covered Bridge Dummerston, Vermont, c. 1870
Vermont Covered Bridge
Originally from Dummerston, Vermont, c. 1870

This bridge, one of the 12 remaining in Massachusetts, was saved from demolition to make way for a new highway in 1951. Fewer than 200 covered bridges still stand in New England.

Blacksmith Shop Bolton, Massachusetts, c. 1810
Blacksmith Shop
Originally from Bolton, Massachusetts, c. 1810

Along with shoeing horses and making nails, the village blacksmith (often a town had more than one) produced items of metal needed for everyday life. DSC_6400The Fenno House is Sturbridge’s oldest building.

Fenno House  Canton, Massachusettts, c. 1725
Fenno House
Originally from Canton, Massachusettts, c. 1725

Artisans on the Old Sturbridge Village grounds make traditional products in the old way. Many are available for sale in the gift shop. [2]DSC_6485DSC_6440DSC_6430

DSC_6351Old Sturbridge Village was born from the collective vision of a family. The three Wells brothers of the American Optical Company in Southbridge, Massachusetts, Albert B., Joel Cheney, and Channing M. founded the massive collection that makes up Old Sturbridge. It is the world’s finest collection of rural New England artifacts. [3]

They purchased David Wight’s farm with the vision of showing their collection in the context of a working village. The living museum received its first visitors on June 8, 1946. To date more than 21 million adults and children have visited the Village, and 250,000 people visit every year.

Churning butter
And his beard’s real, too!
Anyone care for a johnnycake?
Johnnycake, anyone?

NOTES: [2] The ruby red glass flask I purchased there winks at me from the window as I write this.

[3] Old Sturbridge Village began with a 1926 golf date cancelled due to Vermont rain: A.B. Wells went on an antiquing quest instead and became obsessed with collecting New England antiques and artifacts. Click here for more on the history of Old Sturbridge Village or for their website: www.osv.org/visit.

All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. More of Uwe’s pictures from New England and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.