Living museum

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Reenacted scene in a country house in 18th-century Chile

A living museum is a type of museum which recreates historical settings to simulate past time periods, providing visitors with an experiential interpretation of history.[1] It is a type of museum that recreates to the fullest extent conditions of a culture, natural environment or historical period. Sometimes, a drama performing group of historical reenactment of historical scenes in historical buildings is considered as a living museum.

Comparison with open-air museum[edit]

An open-air museum is a special kind of a living museum. In a living museum, a visitor is using their senses. The objective is total immersion, designing exhibits so that visitors can experience the specific culture, environment or historical period using all the physical senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. In an open-air museum, the exhibits are shown outside buildings, especially collections of houses, buildings, machines, rails etc. An open-air museum can be also a living museum, but this is not necessarily the case.

Authenticity and living history museums[edit]

A major concern at living history museums is the idea of authenticity. Living historians define authenticity as perfect simulation between a living history activity and the piece of the past it is meant to re-create.[2] A major difference between living history museums and other historical interpretation is that at living history sites, the interpretation is usually given in the first-person present, versus the third-person past narratives given at other sites. Living history museums seek to convey to visitors the experience of what it felt like to live in the past. Critics of living history museums argue that replication of past states of mind is impossible, and therefore living history is inherently inaccurate.[2]


  1. ^ "The Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums". Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Handler, Richard; William Saxton (August 1988). "Dyssimulation: Reflexivity, Narrative, and the Quest for Authenticity in "Living History"". Cultural Anthropology 3 (3): 242. doi:10.1525/can.1988.3.3.02a00020. Retrieved 5 May 2014.