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LIVING HISTORY – Eight countries present “Living History”

Conference of the 7. liveARCH Meeting, Culture 2000, DG Education and Culture

Reorientation in the convergence zone between leisure events and educational mission

Organizer:Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen

Date and Location:May 21 und 22, 2009, Schloss Maurach,

Uhldingen-Mühlhofen, Germany

Sponsored by the

Culture 2000 Program - European Commission DG Education and Culture

Report: Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen

Attempts to interpret connections in history in a plausible and naturalistic way, are reaching back far into the 19th century.  Although, the 1:1 productions of „Living History” lost their meaning in the German speaking countries at the end of WW II, they gained importance again after the New Beginnings in the 1990s, especially within the fields of folklore, prehistory, early history, and history in general. In archeological open air museums, which are committed to communicate and interpret history spanning from the time of the first hunters and collectors to the end of the Middle Ages, this form of presenting history, the 1:1 productions,  becomes increasingly important. But also outside of the museum landscape, the lively presentation of history is very popular, and provides high ratings in about five TV productions. The result is that event managers, city managers, and PR managers of event and theme parks, exploit the topics of historical science, in order to market their establishments and leisure programs more effectively to the public. These marketing strategies in turn cause the quality of “Life History” programs offered in a scientific context at the open air museums to lose quality. This is especially true, when profit is the main consideration, as can often be observed in commercially oriented establishments.  What do we mean by quality, when we speak about „Life History” presentations? The issues surrounding this question were addressed in theory and practice during a conference titled “Reorientation in the problem zone of leisure events and educational mission” in Unteruhldingen at Lake Constance.

The representatives of 11 European countries, who met at Lake Constance on May 21, and 22, 2009 for a conference to the EU project LiveArch, Culture 2000 Education and Culture of the European Union opened the debate. The conference “H8 - Eight countries present “Living History”, focused on the educational mission of the archeological open air museums and the question how to reconstruct the past most authentically. 

The goal of the meeting was to discuss the spectrum of methods and to exchange knowledge and experience concerning the effective interpretation and conveyance of historical facts from different points of view.  The dialogue centered around the exceptional projects of individual countries, such as the renowned „Biskupin Festival„ in Poland, and the depiction of certain epochs, such as the life style of Roman soldiers and gladiators, that have been presented by the senior historian Dr. Marcus Junkelmann for many years. Nevertheless, there was also room for highly unusual projects like the one of Otto Joias Steiner from the Agency for Adventure Worlds, Switzerland, who staged the project Matterhorn „Zermatlantis” as an excavation. Other participants and presenters had sent representatives of state museums and universities, who reported about their approach to live interpretation of past epochs. Professor Dr. Rainer Hartmann, head of the study program Leisure and Tourist Management at the University of Bremen, moderated on the touristic view. He demonstrated comprehensive results concerning event marketing and aspects of leisure and tourism science.  Following the conference, the history festival on May 23 and 24th, offered the participants and the public to experience all the theories discussed in practice.

Fourteen groups from different locations in Europe performed in the Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen at Lake Constance, to communicate 5000 years of living history in Europe. Actors and participants of the ARD TV series „Stone Age – The Experiment” were part of the festival together with the Celtic group „Carnyx, Roman gladiators and Magyars, who demonstrated the fighting techniques of the early Eurasian nomads (Hungarian horse people). An additional highlight of the festival weekend was the test run of the archeologist Dominique Görlitz in a prehistoric reed boat in preparation for his plan to cross the Atlantic. Photographs of the Living History events can be seen at Lake Dwelling Museums website

After an introductory address by Dr. Gunter Schöbel, director of the museum of Lake Dwellings Unteruhldingen, Joachim Kruschwitz, deputy district administrator of the Lake Constance region welcomed the visitors. He designated the host, the Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen, one of the most successful archaeological open air museums of Germany. He referred to the long tradition of the historical associations at Lake Constance, which also included the 1922 founded Association for Lake Dwellings and Folklore (Verein für Pfahlbau- und Heimatkunde e.V.). Edgar Lamm, mayor of the municipality Uhldingen-Mühlhofen, welcomed the conference participants to Germany’s sunniest place of 2008. He expressed his pleasure about the museum’s success with over 250.000 visitors annually, and called it the „flagship of the municipality “. He thanked for the promotion of the meeting by the European Union and extended his wishes for a successful conference and festival of history. Mr. Jochen Haaga, 2nd Chairman of the Association for Lake Dwellings and Local History and Geography voiced his satisfaction and his pride that he had worked with the Lake Dwelling Museum now in the third European project since 1998.

Dr. Gunter Schöbel commenced the lectures with an address highlighting the historical roots of the Living History productions. Initiating a lively discussion, he conferred about the newest projects like the plan to replicate the historical Stonehenge reconstructed „Wunhenge “, in the Fichtelgebirge near Wundsiedel and which is financed by private investors. He further discussed the reconstruction of ancient Rome with a Coliseum, a forum, and a racetrack, at the outskirts of the Italian capital, which is planned to function as a magnet for an additional 5 million new visitors. Here Dr. Schöbel noted the danger that projects are realized purely for economic profit, and thus the resources of the science of history are exploited merely for commercial purposes. He asserted that a new way of thinking is necessary in order to realize the mission of communicating and interpreting historical events and an anchorage of its contents in the scientific historical research.

The first guest speaker was the linguist Professor Dr. Ulrich Mehler from the University of Cologne. Based on his active studies on the “Markets of the Middle Ages “and his emphasis on scientific of medieval studies, he analyzed the phenomena of the modern way to organize events regarding the life interpreting of history. He reached back to examples from the area of historical markets and the British “Heritage“. He assigned special meaning to the organizers of historical events, which carry the main responsibility for the quality of the interpretations. He proposed three conditions for the organization of historical meetings: firstly, the audience must be addressed within their own environment, i.e. one must deal directly with the public. Secondly, it is essential to avoid the wagging finger, and thirdly, in all the efforts to entertain, the seriousness [of the original goal to convey history] must be maintained and the invisible border between demand and slapstick may not be exceeded.

The Polish archeologist Wojciech Piotrowski from the Museum of Biskupin highlighted the developments of an archeological mega event, the Biskupin Festival, spanning over 15 years, The festival was initiated for the first time 15 years ago at an archeologically protected reservation area, which hosts 25 area monuments. 350-400 enactors are participating in the largest archeological festival of Poland, which is visited yearly by 38000 (1995) and 92000 (2004) guests. Every festival is dedicated to a different theme, which also includes a special exhibit (Theme 2009 Hungary). The event demands extensive logistic expenditure. Thirty-five thousand copies of a comprehensive program magazine must be printed; the enlisted groups have to be hosted at 20 different locations. The guests have to park in areas that are up to 12 kilometers away from the museum. This, however, guarantees trouble-free transportation using buses. Although, the surplus of the festival could be still increased until 2004 (it steadily decreased thereafter so that in 2008, with a max. admission fee of approx. two Euros), at this time there is hardly any profit.

The theatre scientist and dramaturge of Konstanz, Ms. Ruth Bader, presented a view into the future. In the year 2014, the Council of Constance held 1414-1418, will celebrate its 600th birthday.  Under the title „5 years, 5 heads, 5 themes” the responsible persons of the city council presently are developing together with external service providers a program for the five festival years. The city will celebrate this anniversary broadcasting lectures and exhibitions, scientific symposiums and festivals throughout Europe. The participation of European partner cities and the participation of high government officials as well as religious dignitaries are to represent the essential elements of the anniversary. For five years, the City of Konstanz will be in the spotlight internationally. Ms. Ruth Bader described Konstanz in the early 15th Century as the political, economical, and ecclesiasticalnavel of Europe. In co-operation with the ecclesiastical, science and tourism community, the large event will be organized on three levels: firstly, on a local level with Konstanz as the center; secondly, on a regional level with the Lake Constance area as focal point, and thirdly, from a European view, and with the various historical associations in particularly in Eastern Europe. The goal of the project is to attain increased attention for the council and university town at Lake Constance.

Under the heading “Evènements” at the Baden State Museum (BLM) (Badische Landesmuseum) at  Karlsruhe, the director of the Baden State Museum, Dr. Harald Siebenmorgen, pointed to the Francophile term “Evènements” that is used in Karlsruhe instead of the modern, more common term “Events”. His lecture illuminated the development of the Baden State Museum into a national enterprise, which, under new direction, already started at the end of the 1990s to take economical interests more strongly into consideration. Connected with this concept, was the redrafting of the museum’s organizational chart, which now contains only one scientific department compared to the former three scientific departments. Siebenmorgen described the “Evènements“ at the BLM as a part of the offer needed by the museum, and, which does not represent an end in itself. The BLM tailors its offers of events toward the needs of its visitors, and reaches thereby according to their own estimate, 30-35% of the city’s population. Seven market places illustrate the significance, which is attributed to this area. The museum’s special event is a three-day festival that takes place every second year registering approximately 20,000 visitors.

Mag. Wolfgang Lobisser from the Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science, reported in his presentation about the “Eleven years Celtic Festival in Schwarzenbach – an archeological mega event in the country”. Some years ago, an archaeological open air museum was developed in Lower Austria, which consisting of seven buildings, shows the history of the Celts during the 2nd and 1st century before Christ. In order to increase attractiveness and recognition of the museum, the municipality Schwarzenbach decided to celebrate a three-day Celt festival with handicraft, music, and food. The celebration now takes place annually around the summer solstice in June, and begins with „conquest of the Celticwalled area (Keltenwall) reenacted by 1800 pupils. Because of the first day of the festival is a Friday, the emphasis is on the young guests with programs especially designed for children, and an evening concert. The actual archaeology celebration with Celtic artisans and the appearance of reenactment groups takes place on Saturday and Sunday. While the festival had only attracted approximately 800 visitors in the late 1990s, it could increase that number in 2008 to no less than 14000 guests. 25 archaeologists, 20 historical actors, 20 musicians, 4 gastronomy services, and more than 200 volunteers are now working in the event.

Following the presentation of Harald Siebenmorgen of the Baden State Museum Karlsruhe, the organizers welcomed with  Dr. Erwin Keefer from Stuttgart, also a representative of the State Museum. Already with the title “As kitchen master with the lake dweller’s dugout to Egypt and returning as a Roman - visitor oriented events at the State Museum Württemberg Stuttgart” he demonstrated, what kind of challenges museums face as modern cultural organizations. Keefer addressed in his presentation the tradition of living history maintained by the Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen since the 1920s.   He compared this tradition with the present developments in which cultural institutions attempt to compete with Disneyland and the Europa Park at Freiburg. He also pointed out the anchorage of the museums, which are primarily dedicated to the collecting, research, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting of historical artifacts, in accordance with the ICOM Code. Just like Harald Siebenmorgen, he underlined the changes in his institution, although state directed, operates since January 2008 as an independent national enterprise, and within this framework aims to increase its own financial contributions. Within this redesigned environment, so Erwin Keefer, a significant role is attributed to event programs that represent a part of a visitor-oriented cultural facility. This includes for example the “Long Nights of Museum”, during which the house presented itself together with its surroundings in a mix of shows, theatre, demonstrations, and performances. An example here was the PR-suitable exhibit “Egyptian Mummies”. Actors and participants staged promotional campaigns for the State Museum not only indoors, but also at fairs and receptions. The new Children’s Museum within the State Museum planned for 2010 is an attempt to reach new groups of visitors. This initiative was already launched with the interactive special exhibition “Pirates“, which welcomed 142,000 visitors in 2008/2009. 

The talk of the experimental archeologist from Chemnitz, Dominique Görlitz, concluded the first day of the conference. In his presentation, titled “ARBORA III – Columbus – did he only re-discover America?” he lectured about his experiment, which is to prove that it was possible for Stone Age people to sail with primeval rush-rafts the NorthAtlanticpassage.  According to Görlitz, scientists are finding increasingly more evidence documenting that Columbus was not the discoverer of the New World. The remains found in Egyptian mummies stemming from plants originally only found in America, prove, so Görlitz, a very early transatlantic trading. The latest DNA sequences in cultivated plants, so Görlitz, are to prove that these ancient people crossed the Atlantic already in very early times. In order to prove his theory scientifically, he had a reed boat built, which sailed in 56 days a distance of 2410 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean. In August 2007, the expedition crew was confronted unexpectedly with bad weather that brought numerous intense low-pressure systems. A third hurricane shook the boat, ABORA III, for three days continuously 800 Miles away from the Azores, caused immense damage at the boat’s rear. About 550 nautical miles away from the Azores, the experiment had to be broken up. However, according to the lecturer, the results of the expedition document that a prehistoric reed boat does have the potential, to cross the Atlantic also in the opposite direction.

The second day of the conference opened with a presentation of Prof. Dr. Rainer Hartmann from the Institute for Leisure and Tourist Management at the University of Bremen. Under the title „Eventmarketing: Opportunities for cultural heritage sites”, he reported on the use of events from the view of tourism and leisure science. He first explained the demographic changes, which primarily addressed the younger generation of the „older” people as a target group that is very open for travel and event programs.  Historical themes, so Prof. Hartmann, are increasingly well appreciated by all age groups and range in surveys higher than music festivals, open air concerts, and art exhibits.  Hartmann described historical events as a strategy to gain attention, and to create profile, comparable in its uniqueness to the Munich Oktoberfest or the Salzburg Festival. He emphasized that events must possess a goal-oriented character and thereby offers visitors an exclusive opportunity to experience something extraordinary. The higher emotions are experienced in such events, the better the event itself. The event, so Hartmann, should ideally produce a flow, a feeling of total emergence into an activity that presents a unique and unforgettable experience. While the event manager himself will not be able to generate the flow; he can nevertheless create the basis for it. An example is the high number of advertising sponsors in the environment of sport events.

In the workshop following the presentation, the goal for the participants was to develop their own ideas for event program, to perfect them, and to introduce them to the conference participants.

Otto Jolias Steiner from Sarnen, Switzerland, described under the heading „Zermatlantis – the Matterhorn staged as an archeological excavation site”, how scientific contents could be employed for the public. To demonstrate his point, he introduced projects already concluded and working, which at a first glance did not seem to have anything in common.  The highlight of his presentation was the project Zermantlantis, in which, the imaginary village Zermatt was reconstructed set back into the time around 1850 on a 600 square meter exhibition area. The “local history museum” was translocated beneath today’s world, and a new historical world of experience was created consisting of 13 Zermatt houses. With the assistance of scientists, dramaturges, and theatre authors, the true stories of this period were filtered out and narrated as „Zermatlantis”. For each theme, the exhibitors staged realistic event rooms, in which, whenever possible, all senses could fully experience the travel back in time. The current project is the Rhine River Project. The plan is to transport a Rhine River ship up to the High Alps, where close to the point of the Rhine’s origin, at a distance of 2000 meters, the ship will start traveling. Another project is the modified mountain railway, which similar to railways in adventure parks - is open on all sides to allow for a magnificent view over the mountains. Hartmann emphasized the significance of linking emotions with entertainment, and the importance of varying forms and shapes. Concluding his presentation, he outlined the essential components that in his opinion make a museum successful:   1. a central, public intensive location; 2. a gripping theme; 3. a popular production; 4. an inviting facade, and 5. the catching and entrapping of the audience.  

Dr. Marcus Junkelmann, a freelance historian, concluded the day focusing on military history and experimental archeology under the heading “Events und Archeology. Experiments and performances with Roman military and gladiatorial equipment”. In his work, he focuses on the relationship between archaeological findings, reconstruction, and experiment, as scientific attempt and in historical events. The senior archeologist, expounded on a number of projects, he had performed in this area since 1985.  Of primary concern to Junkelmann is whether the weaponry of Gladiators or the helmet masks of Roman equestrians found in Pompeii were crafted particularly for special events and parades. In order to find and answer, Junkelmann conducts experiments with the finds. In his opinion museum productions resulting from these type experiments are the best way to convey an accurate picture of the Roman soldier’s life and the actual nature of Gladiators.  He pointed out that many people want to know how a person feels in the role of a soldier, and that for many it is important to gain a conclusive understanding of the past. The visitors should be invited into a continuous research process of the Roman military history, a process that is conveyed to the visitor in an entertaining manner.

Concluding the dialogue, the conference participants showed their appreciation about the fact that regional projects had been discussed. The two days of the conference produced a multifaceted picture of „Living History“, which inspired a vast number of reflections. Dr. Ilaria Pulini presenting the concluding discussion emphasized the need for events in all participating museums. Professor Mehler’s talk made clear, how careful events must be organized. Dr. Pulini considered the experiences coming from the traditional museums as very fruitful. An important point developed out of the workshop, which showed that considerable efforts must be made by all participants to make the museums visit a unique experience. We need visitor-oriented approaches to create the basis for our guests to gain a deep and personal understanding, and to leave the museum well satisfied. The conditions and tools are available to us, and we do have the obligation to utilize these. Another issue developing out of the discussion was the similarity of events and structures in many of the participating institutions. Here is a greater variety required. However, it is essential that presentations of “Living History“ display high quality. As an example, Dr. Pulini named the successful approach of Marcus Junkelmann. The demonstration of the Gladiators, the artisans who constructed the weapons, and their preparatory work, showed how projects could be realized on a high level over a long period. A high quality performance is of great value and shows the difference that we can recognize also in other areas. She considered it as essential that historical events fit the identity of their locations. Nevertheless, Dr. Pulini expressed her confidence that the exchange that took place between the participants at the conference, will aid all participating institutions to master their day-to-day responsibilities. 

The scientific debate was followed by the History Festival „H8 – Eight countries present Living History”, May 23 and 24th. The Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen organized together with seven other European partners the event sponsored by the EuropeanCommission Directorate General (DG) Education and Culture. The event reached a broad audience, which was revealed in an accompanying evaluation. Fourteen historical groups presented at the Festival weekend a variety of Living History events in an archeological open air museum. Each European country had developed its own theme, which were made very understandable to the guest by way of life performances. The theme of the host, the Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen, was the family, which had been portrayed in the ARD/SWR TV series “Stone Age – the Experiment”. The TV series documented the attempt of contemporary people to exchange their 21st century life style for eight weeks with the actual life style of the Neolithic people. The Museum Modena in Italy sent Bronze Age experts across the Alps, who demonstrated the elaborate casting techniques people used 4000 years ago to the more than 5000 festival visitors. The AraisiLake Fortress in Latvia, introduced „music, dance, and songs of the Iron Age“, and offered with its lively dance production and songs a welcome change to the serious historical presentations. Contrasting this performance was the presentation of the Magyars, which re-enacted the lifestyle of early horse people in the steps with their yurts. Their presentation with reflex bows illustrated how it is possible to fire up to 20 shots per minutes with a special technique (Matrica Museum ofSzázhalombatta).

The Netherlands were represented by the Germanic warriorgroup Teuxandrii from the Historisch OpenluchtMuseum Eindhoven, who demonstrated a two-man combat with shield and sword. The production of the Museum Foteviken, Sweden offered an opportunity to interact with presenters. The throw and shooting techniques with throw axes and bows gave an interesting insight into the world of the Vikings during the first millennium. The presentation of the Scottish Crannog Centre took the audience through Celtic times. Here it was demonstrated how a brew from stinging nettles was used to dye textile fibers. The production of the Norwegians from the Museum Lofoten included a ride in a Viking ship across Lace Constance. The ship archeologist Dominique Görlitz, who trained for the next crossing of the Atlantic from New York to Europe, anchored his boat at the lake dwellings at Unteruhldingen, after he returned from the Island Mainau. In a “time-travel arena”, specially designed for the event, the reenactment groups from all over Germany offered experimental shows from the time of the Celts, Romans, and the Middle Ages. Sizzling stews over the fire, clinking and clashing of weapons, neighing horses – these are only a few of the many different impressions from the campsite. The Ulfinger Alamanni could be observed working elaborous leather artifacts for daily use as well as jewelry during the Migration period, and the „Württemberger Riders”, demonstrated with great expertise how difficult it is to work intricate chain mails. The combat actions of the gladiators, the Roman legionaries, and the Middle Age equestrians that took place in the arena, were given great attention, and were well applauded by the spectators.

These performances were followed by a panel discussion centering on European history and the meaning of culture in a united Europe. Participants of the discussion were representatives of European politics and cultural leaders who introduced the project sponsored by the General Directorate Education and Culture of the European Union to the public. 

The panel discussion emphasized, that museums should function as a type of showcase, and that they have the opportunity to create a community of interest. Aside from the core responsibilities, collecting, research, preserving, interpreting and exhibiting, intercultural dialogues become more meaningful to assure sustainability of historical information and messages. The day ended with a performance of the Austrian Music Group Global Kryners from Vienna with their large repertoire of folk songs, early pop, and rock. Also in the music realm, the group continued the approaches of the festival of history to cross the borders of time.

Additional information under and Photographic illustrations www.suedkurier and

Conference Agenda

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dr. Gunter Schöbel (Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen): Events at the archeological open air museum

Professor Dr. Ulrich Mehler (University of Cologne): Events and interpretation of history

Wojciech Piotrowski (Archeological Museum Biskupin): The Biskupin Festival

Ruth Bader (Konstanz): 600 years Council of Constance – 5 years, 5 heads, 5 themes

Professor Dr. Harald Siebenmorgen (Director, Baden State Museum, Karlsruhe): „Évènements” in the Baden State Museum Karlsruhe

Wolfgang Lobisser M.A. (VIAS, University of Vienna): Eleven years Celtic Festival in Schwarzenbach – an archeological mega event in the country.

Dr. Erwin Keefer (State Museum Württemberg Stuttgart): As kitchen master with the lake dweller’s dugout to Egypt and returning as a Roman - visitor oriented events at the State Museum Württemberg Stuttgart

Dominique Görlitz (Chemnitz), „ARBORA III – Columbus – did he only re-discover America?”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Professor Dr. Rainer Hartmann (University of Bremen): Eventmarketing: Opportunities for cultural heritage sites

Otto Jolias Steiner (Sarnen, Agency for Experience Worlds): Zermatlantis – the Matterhorn staged as an archeological excavation

Dr. Marcus Junkelmann (Oberempfenbach, freelance historian and author): Experiments and performances with Roman military and gladiatorial equipment

Dr. Gunter Schöbel / Dr. Matthias Baumhauer, Translation Anna Dowden-Williams

© Pfahlbaumuseum Unteruhldingen June 2009

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