Didarchtik update: Workshop in Val Senales, Ötzi’s hometown

20-23 September 2010, Didarchtik partners met in Val Senales, an idyllic valley in South Tyrol, close to where Ötzi the Iceman was found. Our host was Johanna Niederkofler, director of the archaeological open-air museum in the valley (, supported by her enthusiastic staff. Partly thanks to the early snow on the high mountains which had fallen just the day before, the location was the most beautiful in this project so far!

The theme of the meeting was ‘returning visitors, how do you get them and how do you keep them satisfied?’ Different speakers, from museum educator and publisher up to the brand manager of new Balance in Italy (yes, exactly from the sport shoes), shared their thoughts about the theme of the returning customer. This gave us a lot of angles, from philosophical to marketing technical and social-scientific.

This was followed by a workshop led by Ilse Prüstl, maker of exhibitions and trainer of museum employees in the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria. Participants brainstormed in small groups about questions like ‘how to approach adults’, ‘things to avoid with adults’, ‘what do our visitors expect and how can we exceed these expectations?’, ‘ideas to steal, best practices’, ‘what is a high quality product?’ It was funny to hear that people working at archaeological open-air museums have the same experiences in their work, regardless if they came from Spain, Germany or the UK. We did not reach any enormously intriguing conclusions but everybody agreed it is useful to think these matters over every now and then and discuss about them.

Of course we also visited the Archeoparc. The theme of the museum is ‘discovering Ötzi’s world’. The indoors museum is about themes like food, clothing, tools, hunting and health in the Neolithic in general and of especially of Ötzi’s. In the outdoor museum there are reconstructions of houses like they could have looked like in Ötzi’s time. There are many activities available for visitors; despite the small museum surface, one can still spend several hours in a pleasant way here.

The meeting was concluded with a diner in a real Tyrol mountain hut. We ate knödel and meat of a ram which had fallen of an Alp the previous day. All of this was enjoyed with fitting accordion music, presented by a musician in lederhosen. Well, you are getting the picture: this was a very successful meeting!

By Dorothee Olthof