Between Reconstruction of the Past, Visitor Expectations and Animal Well-being

Told and Untold Stories about Human–Animal Relationships at Open-air Museums

in Ethnologia Europaea
Michael Schimek Museumsdorf Cloppenburg - Lower-Saxon Open-Air Museum

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As most open-air museums focus on preindustrial rural living conditions, they exhibit historical farmhouses that are presented in a specific holistic way, including the surroundings and livestock. Although these presentations create the impression of historical authenticity, they must remain incomplete due to missing sources and practical exhibition reasons. This also involves the human–animal relationships. Moreover, most visitors cannot interpret the settings displayed properly due to missing knowledge. After highlighting some historical aspects of human–animal relationships using the example of northwest German farmhouses, the article deals with the limits and opportunities of the open-air museums’ presentation of human–animal relationships based on a survey among German-speaking open-air museums. Finally, it pleads for a transparent approach to sensitize the visitors to humans’ current handling of and attitude towards animals.

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