Zeitgeist workshop in Oerlinghausen, February 2012

Zeitgeist had a workshop in Oerlinghausen, Germany, 28 February – 2 March. Even though we are working together for already 1.5 years, we still welcome many new faces at our workshops. This time we could welcome some more archaeologists from the Netherlands who had recently started working at Hunebedcentrum for example.

We stayed in the Hedwigshaus (, a folk high school and institute about migration issues, the perfect location. Being recognised as ‘partner for lifelong learning’, their spirit seamlessly follows the Grundtvig ideas. Besides that, we had everything we needed in one location: seminar rooms, dining and accommodation. After breakfast, Gabriele Meymann-Christians explained us about the experience the Hedwigshaus has in lifelong learning. Not only do they do learning partnership like Zeitgeist, they also have larger projects as well as simple workshops with about 15 participants from all over Europe.

Then we went to the archaeological open-air museum Oerlinghausen, one of the oldest in Europe. Only few of us had been here before, Karl Banghard, director explained us about the historical value of the different buildings but moreover about how they treat adult visitors. A simple but well targeted example was ‘hunting with the spear thrower’. This was not simply an activity. We first received an introductory explanation, followed by trying it ourselves. When we thought we were ready, we were explained about the value of hunting in a group – you cannot hunt an elk alone. This was a great example of putting a straightforward activity in context so people take a message home, and not just an experience. The afternoon we spent with a walk on the Tönsberg. This hilltop has been used by mankind for millennia. The last century people with different ideology claim the mountain: there is not one single ‘true’ history here!

The second day we started with a provocative workshop by Blumammu ( He is a Stone Age presenter who can easily entertain and teach a large group of spectators in an archaeological open-air museum. He explained us what he does to capture the attention of his visitors and how he provokes them, using Jimi Hendrix as well as stuffed animals to get his message across.

The contrast with the presentation techniques from Dr van Norden was immense, but this story was just as relevant. In his lecture, van Norden explained to us that even though in some museums, the idea is to bring ‘the one and only objective history’, this at best are intersubjective stories where the historical event is transferred to the present day audience through several filters and people with different objectives.

After lunch we had a workshop at the LWL open-air museum in Detmold, the largest ethnographic open-air museum in Germany ( Vice director Dr Gefion Apel gave a short introduction about the museum, followed by details about their programs for adults. She explained many visitors say they want to be included in activities, but when these are on offer, only few actually take part. The percentage of repeat visits is very high. Adult programs are among others about textile, cookery, building a scale model of a house (wooden construction), workshops in writing or photographing. The visit to Detmold gave us much food for thought, as it shows there are different ways to reach and teach the public. After this visit, first people had to leave already, and less than 12 hours later, all Zeitgeist people had gone.

We thank the colleagues at AFM Oerlinghausen, among others Karl and Henrik for making this workshop a success; we see each other soon in Archeon – or elsewhere!