Federsee is situated about 100 kilometres south of Stuttgart and 60 kilometres north of Lake Constance. This small lake is the remains of a large basin which slowly turned into land over the past 14,000 years. The peat area covers about 33 square kilometres. The village Bad Buchau has for a long while been a spa.
Since about the 1850s it became apparent, the peat area housed a lot of archaeological finds, mainly dating back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Actually there are hardly any other regions in the world besides of the Alpine region where prehistoric life is preserved in such a detailed way and on such a large scale.
1913, a prehistoric association (“Altertumsverein”) was founded, in 1968 a museum building was designed and opened. The museum building was designed by Manfred Lehmbruck, using a lot of concrete. From inside the building, one has a beautiful view over the water and landscape. The standard exhibition tells the story of man in his / her environment in the peat landscape, like with a presentation about humans in the Tundra, the first farmers, Bronze Age strongholds or a Celtic sacrificial site. Although the amount of original finds is small, the story behind them is told very well and an abundance of originals is not required. Temporal exhibitions, often own productions, are usually shown for one season only, like for example about the role of the horse in prehistory. The temporal exhibitions are a good ‘add on’ to the basic knowledge as provided by the regular exhibition.
2000, right outside the museum, an outdoor area was reconstructed, part of which based on Bronze Age excavations, part on Neolithic research. As in some other locations, The Federseemuseum is a sound combination of an indoor and an outdoor museum. One should not go outside before having seen the indoor exhibition. The 12 reconstructed houses are all based on nearby excavations. Part of them are accessible, but they are furnished like with museum objects in a traditional ethnographic open-air museum: items have numbers, which refer to the audio guide. The buildings are clustered in 4 groups, but one needs to listen carefully to the audio guide to know what and how. Audio guides are available in a separate version for adults and for children.
When designing the 12 houses, the purpose was to show different alternatives, for example for the roofing materials: wood, bark, reeds. What makes it special is that several alternative reconstructions are all based on the same floor plan.
The Federseemuseum is an important site for outdoor learning for pupils. Every of the 4 clusters of houses has one specific one reserved for education. Even with many other visitors, this means school groups can still go about doing what they came for. Outside the museum area, there are educational routes through the landscape.
Lectures, courses and workshops are often programmed as well as the opportunity of spending the night in the museum.
For day trip visitors, there are demonstrations of different techniques, used in prehistory about for example catching fish, using the axe, herbs or jewellery in prehistory.
The presentation of “archaeotechnique” instead of living history is a well thought through approach. True, some employees of the museum carry around in clothing, comparable to the periods the museum shows, but they do not get involved into role playing. The character of a classic museum, also outside remains prevalent, rather than the presentation of a living village. The items shown are artefacts, even if they are copies, no utensils. Focus is on the techniques of back then, not so much on the culture which, of course, would be a more slippery path to take.
The Federseemuseum is a branch of the Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg but is partly financed by the Community Bad Buchau. There is a close cooperation with the Bachritterburg Kanzach, a reconstructed medieval stronghold, about 30 kilometres to the west. Another cooperation is with the Heuneburg, an ‘Iron Age’ archaeological open-air museum 15 kilometres east. The most important international cooperation is with the Archeoparc in Schnalls, Italy, where Ötzi (dating to the Chalcolithic) and his prehistoric environment is focus of the open-air presentation.