The Methodological Centre for Open-Air Museums

The Methodological Centre for Open-Air Museums at the National Open-Air Museum in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm is a professional platform for collaboration between open-air museums and institutions of a similar nature. The Centre conducts specialised activities – educational, research, publication and organisational activities in the sphere of open-air museums.

The Methodological Centre for Open-Air Museums operates under the umbrella of the National Open-Air Museum in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm. The individual museum-type institutions established by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic are responsible for various specialisations that most relevant to their activities. In this way, state policy attempts to provide for various segments of culture.

Within this structure, the Methodological Centre is responsible for a very wide-ranging and specific segment of historical institutions that may be categorised as open air museums.These institutions represent meeting points for approaches used by classic museums and by historic preservation organisations, as well as many other fields. Such interdisciplinary cooperation ideally contributes to informed presentation of the complex environment in open-air museums and maintenance of the exhibits, both structures and collections.

More than thirty institutions resembling open-air museums and operated by various organisations currently exist in the Czech Republic. The establishment of the Methodological Centre for Open-Air Museums and the need for this type of museum sphere is dictated by the special status of open-air museums which in many ways differ from classic “bricks and mortar” museums in their operational, research, documentary and presentational aspects. Countless factors in the case of open-air museums that classic museums never come up against are becoming ever more important – starting with methods of gathering, preserving and presenting tangible cultural heritage, through the necessity of applying traditional technological skills, to a broadly inclusive complex of creation of individual exhibit models including the historical environment. The unique nature of open-air museums therefore demands very different museum approaches apparent both during the creation of collections, and when including not just inanimate exhibits, but also biological elements etc.

The Methodological Centre aims to contribute to the development of theoretic and practical know-how in this sphere of museum management, systematic development of activities employing various forms of communication and sharing of good practice between separate entities, which may be beneficial not just for existing open-air museums, but may become a significant source of inspiration for those planning on opening their own open-air museum. Therefore the Methodological Centre primarily performs the role of a professional and interdisciplinary specialist platform.

The Centre’s activities vary considerably from case to case. It focuses on methodical activities in the aforementioned areas, including research. It attempts to present new findings and examples of good practice through educational events (conferences, educational courses, workshops, excursions) and publication in learned periodicals and in its own journal Museum vivum. On its website, the Centre publishes literature, source and other texts concerning the activities of open-air museums.

The Methodological Centre collaborates with other open-air museums at home and abroad and also with other entities with similar interests, such as the National Heritage Institute or the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and with Czech educational institutions (Masaryk University in Brno, Tomas Bata University in Zlín etc.). Intensive cooperation also takes place with the professional association, the Czech Association of Open-Air Museums.

The Centre’s activities are firmly founded on the past operations of the Wallachian Open-Air Museum in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm as the oldest and largest open-air museum in the Czech Republic, with a wealth of positive and negative experiences.

The Wallachian Open-Air Museum, one of the oldest institutions of this type in Central Europe, may draw on many years of experience. In the course of its existence, the Museum has been through several significant phases of development, both in the general planning of activities and also in specific activities connected with creation of exhibits, collection management and care of items in collections. This places the Wallachian Open-Air Museum as a National Open-Air Museum in an ideal position to perform critical analysis of positive and negative experiences, including other requirements for the current situation concerning development of activities, operational facilities or documentary resources.