Open air museums are basically a Scandinavian invention with Skansen in Stockholm as the world’s first of the kind. Today there are open air museums in most European countries and in North America, Japan, Australia and other countries.
Skansen opened in 1891, and during the following two decades important open-air museums as Kulturen in Lund, Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Maihaugen in Lillehammer, Frilandsmuseet in Lyngby and Den Gamle By in Aarhus were established.
In 1918 Nederlands Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem opened as the first open air museum outside the Nordic countries. And in the 1920s and 1930s the open air museums emerged in several European countries as well as in USA. But it was first after the Second World War that open air museums became a true worldwide phenomenon.
From rural to industrial buildings
The first open air museums were focused on rural buildings and rural culture. This is still the main focus for most open air museums. From 1909 Den Gamle By added a focus on urban culture, and from the 1960s this focus was extended to the industrial culture. During the recent decades the diversity within open-air museums has increased.
Associations of open air museums
In Europe the most important open air museums are organized in the AEOM – Association of European Open Air Museums. In North America most open air museums are together in the ALHFAM – the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums. In several countries open air museums are organized in national networks.
For further information see Sten Rentzhog: Open Air Museums. The History and Future of a Visionary Idea, Stockholm 2007.