Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum (Riga)

Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum (Riga)


Brīvības gatve 440

Tel. 2799 4515


Open: 10am- 5pm


Description of the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum (Riga)

The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia is an open-air museum of Latvian traditional cultural monuments founded on February 2, 1924 in Bergi, on the shores of Lake Jugla, one of the oldest museums of its kind in Europe.

A total of 118 buildings built from the end of the 17th century to the second half of the 1930s in the historical regions of Latvia - Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Zemgale and Latgale - have been transferred, installed and decorated to the museum. Several more structures have been transferred to the museum, but due to various circumstances have not been installed and are currently stored in a disassembled form. The collection of the Open Air Museum also includes approximately 150,000 storage units, which make up the largest collection of ethnographic objects in Latvia.


On February 2, 1924, the Monuments Board of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Latvia made a decision on the foundation of the Open Air Museum at the suggestion of the architect Paula Kundziņš. The Land Development Commission allocated land in the dunes of Lake Jugla, Bergģi, from the State Land Fund for the museum, partially including the properties of the former Bonaventure Manor. When founding the Open Air Museum, Mrs. Pauls defined the mission of the new museum:

The open-air museum wants to organize the creations of our people's culture in the context in which they were created and used in the past - to collectively store the visible content of ancient life, which is contained in the buildings, their surroundings and arrangement, the internal structure of the premises, personal and work accessories
— Ms. Pauls

In the following years, the territory was gradually adapted to the needs of the museum, as well as the identification of the first buildings and other exhibits. The first building - "Rizgu" ria from Vidzeme Vestiena parish was transferred to the museum territory and installed in 1928. The museum was opened for visitors to view in 1932, when its exposition consisted of 6 ancient buildings and their furnishings (Vidzeme homestead).

Until the Second World War, the museum developed rapidly and became a popular place for the public. Many museum buildings were demolished and installed in the museum thanks to donations and the help of various community organizations (eg Boy Scouts, Academic Life Organizations). Homestead complexes from all the cultural-historical regions of Latvia were represented in the museum, as well as several other architecturally and culturally-historically important buildings. The museum was designed and developed with inspiration from similar museums elsewhere in Europe, primarily Skansen, Stockholm.

The events of 1940 and the Second World War interrupted the museum's previous development, but the museum continued to work and be available to the public throughout the war. The museum manager of that time, arch. Jānis Jaunzem even managed to organize the demolition of several cranes and their transfer to the Open Air Museum. Although the change of ruling ideologies and wartime damage did not affect the museum, the biggest loss was almost all pre-war personnel who were repressed or forced to go into exile. Among the leading workers of that time, we can mention the architects Paula Kundziņa, Pēteri Ārenda, Xaverija Andermani and Jānis Jaunzem, of whom only Jaunzem remained in Latvia after World War II.

Until the 1960s, the new Soviet government did not really understand the nature of the Open Air Museum and it was even called "distinctly wrong". During this period, there were deviations from the initially scientific criteria for developing the museum, and several objects in the museum were installed taking into account primarily social and even ideological considerations, rather than scientifically based architectural value.

However, the Soviet government quickly understood the importance of open-air museums, and already in the 60s, open-air museums in Latvia experienced a kind of heyday. A new generation of professionals entered the museum environment and contacts with foreign countries increased. As a result, several other open-air museums or expositions were also established in Latvia. The territory of the open-air museum was significantly enlarged and a whole series of culturally-historically and architecturally valuable buildings were moved and installed (for example, the Libyan fisherman/farmer's homestead complex, Kurzeme fisherman's village, as well as several sacred buildings).

After the restoration of the Republic of Latvia in 1991, the Open Air Museum actively focused on the 20s-30s of the 20th century. years of heritage collection and preservation, which culminated in the opening of the young farmer's homestead complex in 1997, dedicated to the memory of the Agrarian Reform of the 20s and the work of young farmers. Currently, the museum occupies an area of ​​87.66 ha in a pine forest on the shore of Lake Jugla. The museum is considered a monument to the Latvian way of life in its scenic and architectural aesthetic expression.

Homesteads of Latvian farmers, artisans and fishermen have been created in the museum. All of them feature a permanent exhibition (household and work items, interior decoration) that characterizes the period of history, the region and the occupation of the owners of the house. Artisans work in the museum, Latvian festivals of annual customs are celebrated, in the exhibition hall you can see exhibitions of folk art studios and the museum's collection. The museum's restoration department, on the other hand, brings together some of the best specialists in the fields of wood, metal, textile and ceramic restoration.