Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum: showing traditional Romanian village life from the 18th century

Marija Georgievska
 
Featured image

There is an unusual outdoor museum in the middle of Bucharest known as the Village Museum which features exhibits about traditional Romanian village life between the 17th and 19th centuries. The complex was created by the sociologist Dimitrie Gusti who placed it near the lake in Herăstrău Park.

There are many houses from different historical regions of Romania and each of them has a plaque explaining which part of the country it originated from. Besides the original houses, many churches, watermills, and farmsteads were transferred to the museum from Moldavia, Transylvania, and Dobrogea. The objects are divided into different sections depending on their origins and the year when they were built.

Gusti, together with his collaborators Henri H. Stahl and Victor Ion Popa, made a very special selection choosing the best-preserved houses and reconstructing the ones from which only a few were left. The research for the project spanned over ten years and many specialists from various fields were involved. Folklorists, geographers, and statisticians all worked together on the large list of villages chosen for the museum, which opened in 1936.

There are more than 200 village houses from many different regions in Romania dating back to the 18th century. Author: Mark Ahsmann. CC BY-SA 4.0

It is a very tranquil and educational place which attracts a vast number of visitors each year wishing to learn about Romanian life through the ages or just escape the crowded streets of the city and enjoy the fresh air. There are guided tours in which manufacturing processes are explained and also a variety of handicrafts and artworks can be seen.

The interior of one of the village houses with traditional elements. Author: Mark Ahsmann. CC BY-SA 4.0

Mostly, the structures are made from wood in different architectural styles with authentic furnishings, each with its own story. Some of the traditional elements that can be seen inside are wool, plates made from clay, crosses, and towels that hang from the walls.The Transylvanian section is composed of structures from regions like Maramures, Brasov, Bihor and more. There are pagan crosses everywhere and the houses from this region are the only ones from the whole complex that have porches. The most impressive structure and one of the most important in the museum is the church from Maramures.

Transylvanian village houses from the 19th century. Author: Andrei Stroe. CC BY-SA 3.0

With its pointy roof, this church is higher than all the other buildings and is the most visited. The whole section can also be recognized by the surrounding fences and elaborately decorated gates. Another popular section is the exhibit about Greater Wallachia, representing the fruit-growing region of Muntenia. It is a beautiful place where all the structures are arranged in perfect harmony.

The church from Maramures. Author: Andrei Stroe. CC BY-SA 3.0

There is also a Lesser Wallacia near this area which contains one of the oldest forms of home, an earthen cottage with a roof that nearly touches the ground. The most colorful area is Dobruja, which is characterized by decorated windows and benches. The peasants from this region were mostly fishermen and in almost every house there is a storeroom for smoking fish. These clay houses are surrounded by the biggest number of windmills in the entire complex.

A village house in the Maramures section. Author: Andrei Stroe. CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1997 and then again in 2002, some of the buildings were severely damaged by fire. The sectors that suffered the most were those representing Transylvania and Dobrogea. Some valuable elements were lost, but the houses were reconstructed thanks to the help that came from other museums in the country.

A village house in the Dobruja area. Author: Andrei Stroe. CC BY-SA 3.0

Recently, the museum has collaborated with many other institutions across Europe with a similar mission of creating these kinds of village complexes in their own countries. Many architects, anthropologists, historians, and ethnologists from France, England, and Italy have visited the museum in order to learn about its structure. An outstanding project, it is considered to be one of the greatest open-air museums in the Balkans.