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Museum für Urgeschichte, Asparn/Zaya (AT)
Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) is situated in the Northeast of the country, bordering with both the Czech republic and Slovakia and counts over 1.5 million inhabitants. Vienna is a separate county – an island within Lower Austria. The state is very rich in archaeological finds, both of local and foreign production.
A lot of attention is paid to authenticity and science. This does not prevent the museum from organising Celtic Festivals which sometimes include modern expressions of (for example) Irish Celtic culture. These events are one of the few occasions for in the museum. The programmes are sought after and there are also workshops in (prehistoric) techniques, both for children and adults.
Visitors first go through the 19 rooms of the Renaissance castle with a wealth of information and original archaeological artefacts. The temporal exhibitions with themes like “Hallstatt – the cradle of the Age” or “Danube, Kings and druids – Celts along the Danube” are of great added value. With the inside exhibitions fresh in mind, visitors can set the reconstructed houses in the park in perspective. It is almost impossible to first take the outside tour and first then the inside one.
The (about 16) reconstructed dwellings in the museum garden are presented like an , like ‘models’ – each of them depicts a style or a period in Austrian prehistory, like for example the large Band (LBK) house or the Celtic temple. Besides that, there are sites in the park, serving as open-air laboratory, for example pottery kilns or furnaces. Most of the architectural reconstructions were built in the 1970s. They are uninhabited of course but most of them are in good condition. Several houses which would not stand today’s scientific test are left to slowly decay in the hope to excavate them later.
Visitors can use an audio guide in German, English or Czech. The museum is much less a museum to touch (“Museum zum Anfassen”) but an outdoor of scientific models. Despite of this approach, many visitors regard the buildings as ‘real’. That is one of the reasons one tried to reduce the buildings to ‘museum object’ by depriving them of any indoor furnishing. The distance between observer and museum object however is small.
The scientific organisation of the museum has attracted many archaeologists and students over the decades. Asparn is probably one of the reasons, why Austria has such an active group of archaeologists reconstructing houses as well as executing serious archaeological experiments.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.