The archaeological open-air museum at Unteruhldingen is situated at the Lake Constance in the very south of Germany. It dates back to as long ago as 1922 when the first two ‘Stone Age’ houses were constructed. All reconstructions since (22 so far) are based on lake dwelling excavations in and around the Alps dating to the Stone and Bronze Age.
The history of the museum is extensively described. The development of archaeological open-air museums can well be illustrated by means of Unteruhldingen.
The museum is not only one of the oldest of its kind still existing, it is also one of the best visited: the Lake Constance area is a tourist area for over 100 years. Special is that every visitor gets to go on a guided tour – leading to over 15,000 tours being organised per year(!).
Besides being a tourist attraction, there is plenty of education; every 3rd visitor is a school child who come for educational programmes. Research and experiment are also strong here. There are several indoor exhibitions and the Pfahlbauten publishes a journal with research across the world.
The open-air area is designed by theme: every house has another specific function, a fishers’ house, a weaving house, a wood carver et cetera. In the museum guide, it is made clear, such specialisation did not exist yet back then. Products and artefacts are described as how they were made and used in the Stone and Bronze Age. The themed approach gives a grip for tourists as well as for the project focused way of teaching school children. The guides are very knowledgeable, but it is a drawback on the creativity and freedom of individual visitors not to be able to see the museum on their own.
Around the museum, several tracks are marked, with small signs and information on the archaeological and historical past. This is a good way of profiling the museum in the direct environment.
The Pfahlbauten manage to keep standing between the heavy competition, partly by strategic alliances at different levels. Almost yearly, something new is constructed or an element of interest is being upgraded.