The Open Air Museum
ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization
The Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization is the largest - in terms of territory, richest - in terms of heritage and most original - in terms of thematic concept, open-air museum in Romania and among the most representative institutions of its kind in Europe. Located just South of the city, on the road connecting Sibiu and Rășinari, the museum contains creations of traditional, pre-industrial Romanian folk civilisation. The museum covers 96 hectares and is criss-crossed by 10 kilometres of alleyways along which there are over 400 buildings. Houses, workshops and building complexes are scattered among the trees and in the meadows of Dumbrava Sibiului. Around an impressive lake are mirrored the windmills from Dobrogea and the fishermen's constructions of the Danube Delta, and floating mills and bridges are displayed on the lake.
The whole natural landscape and exhibition space offers visitors a variety of opportunities to spend their leisure time and to get to know the tangible and intangible heritage. With its variety of cultural services, the Open Air Museum is a particularly active and attractive living institution all year round, a real living museum, a tourist attraction of international value.
The Open Air Museum annually hosts a multitude of cultural events and actions celebrating tradition and demonstrating the creativity and efficiency with which natural resources were harnessed and used in the peasant household, a true example of good practice for a circular economy, sustainability and green transition, in response to the new challenges facing society today.
Why you should visit us?
The Romanian Folk Creators Fair
Since 1983, the fair has brought together dozens of craftsmen and artisans from all over the country to present their handicrafts and handmade items to thousands of visitors. It is the oldest, longest-running and largest event of the Open Air Museum.
It is the only major event in Romania celebrating multi-ethnic cultural diversity. Every year since 2016, the event brings together a fair of craftspeople from different communities (Romanians, Saxons, Hungarians, Roma, Lipovans, Greeks, Serbs, Croats, Slovaks), a gastronomic marathon with specific dishes and a festival of traditional multi-ethnic music and dance.
The Universal Day of the Romanian blouse
An initiative launched in 2014 in recognition and appreciation of the complexity and beauty of the Romanian blouse, the event is organized every year around Midsummer's Day (24 June). The Romanian Ia became part of the UNESCO Intangible World Heritage on the 1st of December 2022, when the decision was adopted to inscribe the element "The art of the shirt with embroidery on the shoulder (altiță) - an element of cultural identity in Romania and the Republic of Moldova" on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The National Olympiad of Traditional Artistic Crafts
Dedicated to the mission of rescuing traditional working techniques, the ASTRA Museum started in 1996 a project in partnership with the Sibiu County School Inspectorate with the aim of increasing children's interest in learning crafts. The most skillful children compete in front of the public in a competition event held in the open-air museum every year in July.
The Toy Fair
Since 2010, we have been celebrating children and childhood every year on June 1st in a place designed for play and discovery. The little ones can enjoy handmade toys made by skilled craftspeople from natural materials and participate in workshops, animations, theatre performances, concerts, discovering that play often comes from simple things.
The School in the traditional village
Big or small, we all have something to learn when it comes to the traditional village and its secrets. If you want to relive the atmosphere of the old rural schools, if you want to (re)connect with traditions in a fresh and contemporary way, you have the whole summer at your disposal. We offer creative workshops, skill-building workshops, discovery workshops under the careful guidance of craftspeople, as well as countless hours of play and experimentation, theatre performances and musical workshops.
Beautiful. Ceramic. Useful.
A different kind of potters' fair in the open-air museum in Dumbrava Sibiului, where you can meet the best potters and cooks. Since 2013, the event has been promoting utilitarian ceramics, the craft of pottery and encouraging the cooking of traditional recipes on an open hearth in clay pots.
The ASTRA Rock Festival is a unique, complete and complex cultural event that aims to present folk craftsmen and their carefully crafted products to a new category of cultural consumers - the public passionate about rock music. Through a diverse and dynamic artistic programme the Festival facilitates the communication of heritage, with the Open Air Museum becoming an interactive stage, where visitors will get to know traditional craft workshops, while waiting for live concerts by their favourite artists.
The place where gastronomy from all corners of the country, on the occasion of specific events, awaits you to taste it, understand it and actively participate in gastronomic workshops. We promote small-scale producers, involve local communities and encourage the consumption of fresh and seasonal produce, sometimes picked right from the museum gardens.
The story of the Open Air Museum begins more than a century ago, with the first manifestations of a dream of Transylvanian Romanians to organize an ethnographic collection in Sibiu, under the aegis of the Association for Romanian Literature and the Culture of the Romanian People. Its purpose was to highlight the most representative testimonies about the Romanian specificity, about what differentiated us from other peoples, things and phenomena that could explain to everyone who we are. The first exhibition of the Museum of the Association, the institution from which ASTRA derives its name, took place in 1905.
The open-air ethnographic museum started in 1963 as a "museum of folk technique", aiming, by design, to illustrate the entire traditional folk technical creation in Romania. The museum was opened to the public in 1967 under the name of Museum of Folk Technique.
The open-air museum was initially divided into 4 thematic exhibition sectors: 1. Production and processing of agro-food products, 2. Extraction and processing of ores and raw materials, 3. The museum deals phenomenologically with the whole traditional occupational system, from gathering from nature, to general and specialised occupations, from household occupations to all kinds of village crafts, from "cottage industries" to specialised "peasant industries", from carried (direct, by man or animal) to hauled (dragged or rolled) and floating transport.
An impressively varied system of manual tools covers almost all traditional occupations: hunting and fishing (in the Danube Delta), agriculture (in the lowlands, hills and mountains) and shepherding (on the edge of agricultural villages, in the meadows, in hill and remote mountain settlements, and even in the rocks of the Alpine hollow), fruit-growing (with the vinegar and alcohool 'industry'), viticulture (with the wine industry) and oiling. There are also village crafts: weaving (processing wool, silk, hemp, bag maker - goar hair) and braiding (creating ropes), shipskin prodoction and leather processing, pottery, masonery. mining (gold digging), smithing and creation of bells, followed by wood processing crafts (cooperage, carpentru, joinery, reed making) and the making of musical instruments (wind and stringed), waxworking (beekeeping and candle making) and reeds (reed matting), demonstrating an impressive technical and craft complexity.
The category of 'monuments of folk technique' from Oltenia, Muntenia, Transylvania and Maramureș excels in terms of the great variety of themes: grain mills, presses - with the most diverse functionality, kilns, potholders, whirlpools, fulling mills, hammers, mining installations and hydraulic saws.
In 1971 it was decided and began to add peasant households and craft workshops. The monuments of folk architecture show, particularly in the construction of the houses, a diversity of regional types (plan, elevation, construction techniques, decorative-architectural systems, heating systems, interior organisation, furniture) which demonstrate the exceptional functionality and ergonomics of the built space. Folk art is also present both in the decoration of home interiors and in craft workshops, whether in textiles or ceramics, wood or metal, amber or glass, functional furniture or religious props.
The Museum of Folk Technique (1963-1989) has accumulated the most complex collection of monuments of architecture and popular technique in Romania and a vast documentary-scientific and technical archive (graphic, photographic, filmographic) about the universe of peasant, pre-industrial technical creation in Romania.
In 1990, a new sector was added, dedicated to monuments of public and social utility. Two churches and a school, two inns and a tavern, two game pavilions and a "resting place", a bowling alley and two firemen's sheds, a craddle and even a "witch's house" were brought in and put into operation, enlivening the whole sector for the public, making the museum a true "museum of traditional Romanian folk civilisation".
In the same year (1990), the museum received the approval for the attribution of the cognomen ASTRA and the approval of the Ministry of Culture for the change of name, the Museum of Folk Technique, thus, becoming the Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization ASTRA.
Managing a complex material and immaterial heritage, consisting of the collection of the Open Air Museum, the collection of the Museum of Transylvanian Civilization, the Emil Sigerus Collection of Saxon Ethnography, the Franz Binder Collection of Universal Ethnography, in 2001 the ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization became the ASTRA National Museum Complex.
From the very beginning, the thematic project of the Open Air Museum was a model of a grandiose concept and an example of strategic, innovative vision, based on the desire to save, preserve and protect the cultural identity of the Romanian people. Today, the dynamics and development of the museum follow the same principles, the ASTRA Museum becoming a landmark and a factor of change for the Romanian cultural sector.
In order to increase the symbolic accessibility of the public to multi-ethnic values, the ASTRA Museum has developed a visitor circuit entitled "The Path of Ethnic Minorities". The open-air museum has in its collection 15 monuments belonging to ethnic minorities in Romania, each of them presenting the specific traditional occupations that their owners had, in accordance with the thematic project of the museum.
Through the project "Open Heritage. Increasing public accessibility to the multi-ethnic values of the ASTRA Museum heritage" carried out within the framework of the PA16/RO12 programme "Preservation and revitalisation of European cultural and natural heritage", these monuments have been reconstructed, restored, preserved together with the inventory of specific objects and have been valorised through the creation of a thematic, interactive visiting circuit and the development of an interdisciplinary programme of cultural animations, organised with the aim of promoting the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of minorities.
Once in the Open Air Museum you can get to know the multi-ethnic heritage by exploring the following households and technical installations:
Fisherman's household, Mahmudia, Tulcea county - Lipovan Russians
Fishery (Cherhana), Mahmudia, Tulcea county - Lipovan Russians
Ice house, Mahmudia, Tulcea county - Lipovan Russians
Fruit crusher and fruit press, Rosia, Sibiu county - Saxons
Medieval grape press, Vințu de jos, Alba county - Saxons
The "Roman" stone table press, Cristian, Sibiu county - Saxons
Flax seed crushing mill, Cristian, Brasov county - Saxons
Horse-drawn mill, Sâmpetru, Timiș county - Schwabs
Water-Mill with horizontal wheel and buttons, Svinița, Mehedinți county - Serbs
Low windmill, Enisala, Tulcea county - Turks - Tatars
Windmill with sails, Curcani, Constanta county - Turks - Tatars
Rudar homestead and workshop from Poiana village, Perisani commune, Valcea county - Roma
Hydraulic hammer, Rimetea, Alba county - Hungarians
Salt miner homestead, Sărățeni, Sovata, Mureș county - Hungarians
Potter's homestead and workshop, Corund, Harghita county - Szeklers
A program designed to highlight the material heritage exhibited in the Open Air Museum, the intangible heritage of the Romanian space, establishing multiple connections between generations and new perspectives on the world of the village with insertions of artistic installations, text, video and sound design, lights. The projects are based on field documentations that update archival information and help the visiting public to understand the current situation of the cultural landscape and intangible heritage in the countryside through direct testimonies and through fragments of reality that offer multiple keys to understanding and perception. The actions send visitors to communities through creative and playful cultural bridges. All the approaches integrated in this programme are based on the heritage held by the museum, the history of field research, the photo-video documentary archive and the bibliography related to each theme.
The Workshop-exhibitions can be experienced in the following households in the Open Air Museum:
Sun on the plate, Potter's household from Horezu (open)
Găleșoaia's Soil and People, potter's household from Găleșoaia (starting 11.06.2023)
From said house to said world, Fulling clothes household from Săpânța (starting 14.07.2023)
Beyond the Mask of Happiness, Cooper's homestead from Nereju (starting 06.08.2023)
The first monument reconstructed in the museum from Dumbrava Sibiului, in 1963, is the mill from Dăbâca,Hunedoara county, a hydraulic mill with lower admission, a fascinating construction from the end of the 18th century, with a space designed for the grinding installation and another for living. The beams are carved in an old technique, almost lost in Romania. The Dăbâca mill, Hunedoara county opens the museum's collection of mills, a unique collection in Europe that has been developed over the years. This mill was the representative symbolic element of the Museum of Folk Technique, being included in the museum's logo from 1963 to 1989.
The molinological collection is unique, as the 33 grain mills present all known energetic types of mills in the Euro-Asian area, with the exception of "tide mills". The complexity of the collection lies in the diversity of energy and construction types. In the open-air museum there are hand, horse driven, water (one, two, three and six-gear) and wind mills, with fixed constructions on the ground, or floating on vessels, with direct transmission or with transmission gear (one-step or two-step), with horizontal or vertical wheels (single, double or triple), with all types of admission (lower, medium or upper), with plank or canvas wind wings, with the whole body of the construction pivoting or with only a movable dome ('Dutch' mills).
From the collection of mills we highlight the following installations: a Romanian invention, the "Alvan" mill from Sălaj, the horse-drawn mill from Timiș, water-mill with 6 horizontal wheels from Găleșoaia, the only one saved in the European context of milling installations of this type and the mill from Bumbuiești, operated by human power.
The floating mills of Luncăcești, Maramureș county and Munteni, Valcea county are unique at national level and among the few represented in European open-air museums. Not to mention the collection of windmills in Dobruja, which capture the evolutionary stages in the construction of wind energy installations.
The house from Vlădești, Vâlcea county, dated 1837, can be found on the 10 lei bill. It impresses with its mortar-textured stone ground floor, small windows used for defence, and the multitude of decorated pillars on the porch. By the way, it's very Instagrammable.
Where is the largest oak house in South-Eastern Europe? You guessed it! It is in the ASTRA Museum! It is the house from Almaș, Arad county, built 3 centuries ago, moved three times, as the village was also relocated. Inside the household, the pigsty presents two breeds of pigs, Magalița and Bazna, which introduce you to the atmosphere of the oldtime yards.
You can find the so called Sistine Chapel of wooden churches in Romania, in the pottery sector. This is the Church from Dretea village, Cluj county, dating from 1672, the oldest monument in the Open Air Museum's collection. It impresses with its harmonious proportions and the painting on a single piece of canvas on the nave wall, painted in 1742.
In the sector dedicated to mining you can see a house built in 1957 using a technique specific to the 1850s. The house is from Dragu-Brad, a spread village representative to the Apuseni Mountains, which was depopulated in the early 2000s. The interior of the house is atypically decorated with an installation illustrating the memory of the place, the people and the sustainable use of resources. A story waiting to be told!
The house of the richest Romanian in the Roșia Montană area can be identified in the vecinity of the Etno-Tehno Parc area, we are referring to the house from Corna, Alba county, built in 1836, with a cold-build stone fence. It used the stone resulting from the gold mining exploitation which can be seen bellow the house. This is teh Abrud exploitation installation,where gold was mined from the rocks in the area.
The house from Bălănești village, Gorj county is unique in the context of European oak architecture. Built in the middle of the 18th century, it is a true example of durability and sustainable use of wood resources, by respecting simple rules related to cutting periods and working techniques. The L-shaped floor plan with three rooms demonstrates the ingenuity of the craftsmen from Gorj county, who inspired the great sculptor Constantin Brâncuși.
Old School Textbooks
ASTRA Museum has a collection of old textbooks and teaching materials, which you can admire here, in digital format, (re)discovering the childhood of yesteryear and the specifics of that era. We are therefore appealing to those of you who own old textbooks, teaching materials, and games, to contribute with donations to complete our collection. For contact details please see the Contact page, Open Air Museum.
Get an annual subscription
Click on the button below to purchase your subscription.