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Living museums in and around Luxembourg
History

Living museums in and around Luxembourg

2 by Sarita RAO 8 min. 30.07.2022
Fancy travelling back in time to be a farmer, weaver, school kid or wine maker? You can do just that at these museums of bygone times
Schoolroom from 1915, recreated at Thillenvogtei
Schoolroom from 1915, recreated at Thillenvogtei
Photo credit: Nico Muller

What was it like to be a wine grower in the 19th century, a schoolkid in the 1910s, a baker who climbed inside his coal-fired steam oven, or someone who lived within the walls of a Medieval castle.

Whilst books can give us the key events that changed or shaped history, museums of bygone times give us a first-hand view of what life was like for everyday people such as farmers or craftsman. Not only can we see what it took to do everyday tasks from laundry to butter churning, these museums show the architectural styles and objects of the time, and tell a story of our great, great grandfathers.

There are several museums of yesteryear in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. We list what you can expect and opening times.

In Luxembourg

Country Museum – Binsfeld

“A Schiewesch” is the place to go if you want to visit a country kitchen, or see what a bedroom in an old cottage might have looked like. The building itself is more than 300 years old and houses thousands of old antiques and photos recreating the rural scenes of the past, specific to this region of northern Luxembourg. There are 50 themes, set across twenty rooms.

The building was originally erected in 1600 as a sheepfold, and a house was added in 1725. A hostel is being renovated and is due to open this summer, and in early September, the museum usually holds a potato festival.

It is open from Easter until early November every day from 14.00 to 18.00. On request, you can take part in a number of activities. This revolve around a day in the life of the village, including baking, milking cows, and crafts. The museum also organises scavenger hunts for older children and adults.

Thillenvogtei Museum – Rindschleiden

More rural life, this time from the 1900s, in another authentic farmhouse in this picturesque village, the smallest one in Luxembourg. The museum’s founder, Jean Ney, has been collecting objects related to rural life and crafts for decades.

In the kitchen in the 1900s
In the kitchen in the 1900s
Photo: Nico Muller

Documents in the house were found in the attic, and dated back to 1688. They showed Rindschleiden was an important agricultural centre with stables, pigsties and cowsheds. Ney’s uncle had also collected pistols, helmets, and uniforms left by American soldiers, and the collection was grown to include agricultural implements and old paintings.

An old school is housed in the dairy farm, with a small stove, old maps of Luxembourg, wooden desks with slate boards and chalk. Next door is a recreation of an old store, and you can visit the house, including a bedroom filled with clothes, dining room and kitchen, and perhaps most surprisingly, a hairdressers with a collection of old hairdryers.

The village is in a hidden valley surrounded by forests and pasture fields, it has only one official resident, but also the church of Saint Willibrord, one of the oldest in the country with a ceiling decorated with 16th century frescoes. The museum runs various school programmes which include baking bread, sewing clothes or picking potatoes. You can visit from 21 July to 8 September on a Thursday from 10.00 to 18.00 but you should contact them first.

Museum “A Possen” – Bech Kleinmacher

Step inside an 18th and 19th century winegrower’s house in the Moselle region of Schengen. You can get a feel for both the social and craft life of the inhabitants and the history of winemaking in the region, plus Moselle folklore. You can see the workshop of a cooper, a shoemaker, tailor, weaver, and of course, a winegrower. 

What the bedroom might have looked like for a wine grower in Schengen in the 19th century
What the bedroom might have looked like for a wine grower in Schengen in the 19th century
Photo: Gerry Huberty

Exhibits are shown in rooms, including a nursery, and a school for teddy bears, with fascinating objects including an old doll’s house and several dolls, miniature trains, beautifully preserved clothing including a wedding dress, an old cinema camera, and a wash stand. The house was built in 1617, and there is currently a temporary exhibition on religious customs from birth to death.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 until 18.00. Guided tours in English are offered at an additional cost for a group of up to 15 people.

Rural, craftsmanship and carriage museum – Peppange

So what was life like for a rich farmer between 1880 and 1930? The craftsmanship section of the museum shows various workshops including a functional blacksmith. You can visit a reproduction of small diary complete with butter churner, a shoemaker’s workshop, an old school room, and an old kitchen, plus there’s an interesting section showing religious statues and clothing. There’s a farmer’s garden with vegetables, spices and medicinal plants, and a medieval forge. The main museum is open for self-guided tours (they advise this takes 45 minutes), from March to October, Tuesday to Friday 14.00 to 17.00 and at weekends, 14.00 to 18.00.

Carriages that belonged to the Grand Ducal Family
Carriages that belonged to the Grand Ducal Family
Photo: Guy Wolff

The carriage museum has 40 historical vehicles, eight of which belong to the Grand-Ducal court. It includes harnesses, trunks, lanterns and travel utensils, with a history on the evolution of horse-drawn vehicles. This part of the museum is open from May to October on Sunday from 14.00 to 18.00.

Cloth factory museum – Esch-sur-Sûre

Head to the Upper Sûre nature park which in the 16th century was also know for its weavers’ guilds. Old textile machines have been lovingly restored so that you can see the process of fabric weaving from wool to the finished cloth. Local craftsman Martin Schoetter-Greisch built a machine in 1807, and 10 years later installed the first spinning machine.

Wool woven into cloth was a staple industry in bygone times
Wool woven into cloth was a staple industry in bygone times
Photo: Chris Karaba

By 1866 the workshop had been extended. You can see the restored machines in operation on a guided tour, and today the factory still produces woollen fabrics using these machines, available to buy in the shop. During July and August the factory is open from 10.00 until 18.00 daily. From April to June and September to October it is open on weekdays from 10.00 to 12.00 and 14.00 to 18.00, and weekends from 14.00 to 18.00. November to March it closes an hour earlier at 17.00.

Greater Region

Roscheider Hof Folklore and Open Air Museum – Konz

Explore the traditional way of life in the Rhineland regions of Eifel, Hunsrück and Saargau, including what it was like to sit in a classroom in 1912, visit a traditional grocer, barber and even a village pub. The site has replica houses and farms from the 19th century, fully furnished with original items.

The estate house, around a rectangular courtyard, now incorporates a visitor centre, and is the oldest part of the museum, and originally built where it stands. Roscheider Hof was first mentioned in records in 1330, and was owned by a Benedictine monastery and used by tenant farmers for grazing. It was sold to a French soldier in 1805, who with his son was involved in the 1848 revolution, even spending time in prison. The oldest remnants of the building date to the 16th century, and include a small Gothic walled window.

The children’s world section has over 100 antique dolls, plus there’s a middle-class period parlour from the 1840s, and a Gail bakehouse from the 1930s, that used a steam oven heated by coal and a reservoir for generating steam. In order to close the oven, the baker had to climb into a closable pit in front of the oven opening. You can also view an umbrella workshop, a hat shop, and a display with original items that covers the history of laundry. The village contains a shepherd’s hut from 1749 and a replica of a farmhouse from the 1820s.

The living museum is open every day from 10.00 until 18.00.

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House of Medieval heritage – Dinant

Housed in the “Spanish house” in this pretty Belgian town, you can take a peek into the lives and deaths of medieval inhabitants, learn about their religious ceremonies, and their work in ceramics and copper.

Find out what life was like within the castle walls, and urban planning and architecture in the Middle Ages, which evolved from earth and wood in the 10th century to stone by the 13th century. The keep was also slowly replaced by more comfortable dwellings as weaponry evolved. This was also a time when cities began to grow, and the growth of the burgher class, and freedoms and rights.

The museum also looks at Mosan or terracotta pottery, and the changes to manufacturing techniques and styles during the Middle Ages. A temporary exhibition in 2022 looks at how writing became more widespread during Medieval times, with millions of words written by thousands of hands.

The museum is open daily from 10.00 to 18.00 in the summer months and until 17.00 in the winter months. There is an audio guide with three different itineraries including a children’s circuit, available in French or English, and generally a self-guided tour takes 1 hour to 90 minutes. On Sunday there is a free guided tour at 15.00 but you must email to reserve a slot.

Animalaine

This living wool museum and sheep park near Bastogne gives children the chance to meet 25 species of woolly animals and see that stages of wool production from the beginning of the 20th century. You can also step back in time to a fully reconstructed period house.   Open 1 April until 30 September on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9.30 to 16.30 Closed on Wednesday. Open on Saturday (and Sundays in July and August only) from 11.00 to 18.00. Tickets cost €8 for adults and €7 for children.


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