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July 22nd 2008

Since early 2007, different groups of EXARC members have been involved in setting up a minimum definition of what an archaeological open-air museum is. Those groups have been the liveARCH project, the EXARC annual general meeting (AGM), the EXARC accreditation commission and finally the EXARC board. This defining is an important process and will be concluded by the endorsement of a minimum definition by the EXARC Annual General Meeting (AGM) in March 2009 in Italy.
Defining this might be followed by defining other groups involved in EXARC. Other possible steps are to define what a good archaeological open-air museum should be, regardless of its country or the epoch it represents.
ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums and cannot be seen separate of this.

Definition of archaeological open-air museums (AOAM)
July 22nd 2008, EXARC

An archaeological open-air museum is a non-profit permanent institution with outdoor true to scale architectural reconstructions primarily based on archaeological sources. It holds collections of intangible heritage resources and provides an interpretation of how people lived and acted in the past; this is accomplished according to sound scientific methods for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment of its visitors.

This definition of an archaeological open-air museum can be broken down in the following key words:

a.Museum (see No A)
b.Archaeological (see No B)
c.True to scale architectural reconstructions in the open-air (see No C)
d.Collections of intangible heritage resources (see No D)
e.Connected to scientific research (see No E)
f.Appropriate interpretation with organisation of activities for visitors (see No F)

Background Information to the definition / characteristics

No A Museum

“A museum is a non-profit*, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.” (ICOM Statutes, approved in Vienna (Austria) – August 24, 2007. Art. 3, Section 1).
Professional practice and performance in archaeological open-air museums should respect the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums (ICOM 2006,

No B Archaeological

Archaeological data are the primary source of information of what is reconstructed and interpreted.

No C True to scale architectural reconstructions in the open-air

Archaeological open-air museums deal with outdoor true to scale reconstructed buildings. These can be constructed and interpreted only under the condition that: “the original buildings of the type portrayed are no longer available (and) the copies or reconstructions are made according to the strictest scientific methods” (ICOM declaration: 9th July 1956/1957 Geneva, section 6).
The authenticity of materials and techniques used should be clearly accounted for through written and accessible records, quoting the sources of information on which the reconstructions are based. An honest assessment of each reconstruction should be feasible.

No D Collections of intangible heritage resources

The overall presentation of an archaeological open-air museum can be regarded (classified/defined) as a collection of intangible heritage resources which provides an interpretation of how people lived and acted with reference to a specific context of time and place.

No E Connected to scientific research

The connection between scientific research and any specific archaeological open-air museum is provided by the active role of a trained archaeologist among the staff or an archaeological counsellor belonging to an affiliated organisation.

No F Appropriate interpretation with organisation of activities for visitors

Depending on the nature and amount of visitors, different kinds of interpretation can be appropriate. These activities can involve (but are not limited to) guided tours, educational programmes, presentation of experimental archaeology research, demonstrations of ancient crafts and techniques, live interpretation and living history activities.


a non-profit*

“Non Profit refers to a legally established body- corporate or unincorporated - whose income (including any surplus or profit) is used solely for the benefit of that body and its operation. The term "not-for-profit" has the same meaning” (ICOM Code of ethics for museums, ICOM 2006:

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