Before WWII, Kaliningrad was the capital of Prussia and was referred to as Königsberg. In 1909, at the initiative of the provincial Conservator of Historical Monuments Richard Dethlefsen an open air museum was founded in the North-Eastern part of the Königsberger Zoo in Hufen just outside the city centre.
Dethlefsen, born in Danish speaking Southern Jutland had taken the Scandinavian Skansen museums as example. One of the new things was, among others, to have copies built by craftspeople still being able to build ‘the old way’ instead of using original buildings. The houses were meant to be in use as a living history village – much in contradiction with many other ethnographic museums which were uninhabited. It was the first larger ethnographic open air museum outside Scandinavia.
Four years passed of building copies of wooden vernacular dwellings from the 17th – 19th centuries. The region the museum was themed with was East Prussia (Warmia, Masuria and the Powiśle), an area which is now partly in Poland, Russia and Lithuania. From the pre-Teutonic period, a box tomb and a tumulus of the Bronze Age were reconstructed. The Kaliningrad Ethnographic Park, "Dorfmuseum" opened in 1913, just before WWI.
As a sign of cultural unity of the ‘Greater Germany’ between 1938-1940 the houses were transferred westward, to Osztynek, into an area of 35 hectares. This site was particularly interesting as it is near Stębark (De: Tannenberg), where the Germans won their first victory against the Russians in WW1. It is also the site (Grunwald) of the 1410 battle when the German Order lost from the Polish army.
The furniture and other movable items have been lost by the end of WWII and also the houses were seriously damaged. After the war 12 houses were repaired or rebuilt and are now preserved objects witnessing both of the 17th – 19th centuries as of the early 20th century when they were built and moved.
Copies of houses were continued to be built after the museum had moved to Poland. The Museum of Vernacular Architecture (MBL, Muzeum Budownictwa Ludowego - Park Etnograficzny w Olsztynku) as it is called presently, counts 90 hectares and houses 66 architectural objects representing a diverse rural development over the 17th – 20th century in the aforementioned area. There are also reconstructed archaeological remains exhibited, like an Iron Age tomb of the Kurgan Culture.
2008, there are plans for constructing an Ethnoarchaeological Park Amalang. It would consist of an Iron Age fortress, a settlement and a place of worship. The plans are based on archaeological research as well as ethnoarchaeological research into daily life of the Baltic people, Slav and Saxon. The amount of excavated houses is quite limited, therefore there is much inference needed.
With depicting Iron Age of this area in this open air museum, a link is made showing geographical and cultural continuity in this Prussian country.
There are defensive structures known from the 3rd – 4th century BC. The newly planned fortress would be situated on the “Witch Hill” with on the south a pagan place of worship of the 11th – 13th century AD and on the north a craft village where children and adults can try out ancient techniques. There will also be festivals, educational school programmes and living history.
The first stage would be to build 8 – 9 facilities for cookery, workshop in amber working, skin working, pottery and iron. Following upon this, the cult centre will be developed which will be used to demonstrate old rituals and traditions that survived in oral and written sources. The last development stage will be to build the fortress itself, a Prussian castle compound with residential tower and outbuildings.