Bokrijk is park and museum complex near the city of Genk in the Province of Limburg, Belgium. It is known for its open-air museum which displays a large collection of historical buildings from across Flanders, presenting the history of rural life in Belgium. The domain is 5.5 square kilometres in area and hosts an important botanical garden (arboretum) and Flanders' largest open-air playground.
On March 9, 1252 Arnold IV, Count of Loon and Chiny (county of Loon) sold a forest, that was situated between Genk, Zonhoven and Hasselt, to the abbey of Herkenrode. This forest was called 'Buscurake' or Buksenrake ('buk' = beech, 'rake' = a part of land). The name later evolved into 'Bouchreyck' and eventually to Bokrijk. The Cistercian abbey of Herkenrode (in Kuringen near Hasselt) built a grangiae (abbey farm), dug out fish ponds and started forestry practices. The abbey farm was cultivated by lay brothers and from 1447 onwards functioned as an ordinary tenant farm. It remained the abbey's property until the years of the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1797 French Revolutionaries seized all properties of the Cistercian abbey and the same year sold it to a private investor from Maastricht.
On the 21 March 1938 the provincial government of Limburg acquired Bokrijk. Governor Hubert Verwilghen inspired the acquisition. Verwilghen strived for the creation of a public domain that would combine culture and nature. His vision would be realized years later under the dynamic impulse of provincial governor Louis Roppe. On 6 October 1953 the Provincial Council of the Province of Limburg decided to create an open-air museum in Bokrijk. With the post-war industrial revolution and the increasing development projects of the 1950s, Flanders' living environment was drastically changing. Agricultural buildings of important cultural and historical value for Flanders were disappearing from the landscape. Dr. Jozef Weyns was appointed to coordinate the project and remained in function as first conservator of the Open Air Museum of Bokrijk. The museum opened to the public on 12 April 1958 as contribution of the province of Limburg to the Expo '58 (Brussels World’s Fair).
The museum's preserved buildings are centred in three clusters on the site which are arranged by the geographical region of origins:
- "The Kempen" - total of 34 buildings
- "East and West Flanders" - total of 16 buildings
- "Haspengouw and the Maasland" - total of 27 buildings
Gateway from Heers (1774) which serves as the museum's entrance
Living history - distilling jenever on authentic pot still
Other than the Museum, Bokrijk also includes a large children's playground and botanical garden (Arboretum).
- De Keyzer (Laurens). The Open-Air Museum Bokrijk. Gent-Amsterdam, Ludion, Ludion Guides, 2001, 128p. (photos: Michiel Hendryckx)
- Rentzhog (Sten). Open Air Museums. The history and future of a visionary idea. Kristianstad, Carlsson/Jamtli, 2007, 530p. (ISBN 978-91-7948-208-4)
Media related to Bokrijk at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website of Bokrijk
- Bokrijk Adventurepark
- Review on Bokrijk
- Het Groene Huis (The Green House)
- Plantcol, Belgian botanical collections
- Regionaal Landschap Lage Kempen
- Het Wik