A German Time Capsule

Open-air museums make everyday life tangible, particularly for rural farmhouses, which allow a walk through regional history. Whether the architecture, or the objects within, are transplanted or recreated is perhaps irrelevant. A bit like a regional ethnological petting zoo; today events like weddings, birthdays or classes take place in these supposedly authentic settings. A little uncanny, this density, this view back. A longing for the old times? A «heimat»? 

In the open-air museum at Kiekeberg, between loamy paths, stables and farms, such a building group reenacts recent history: «heimat» in the young Federal Republic of Germany between 1945 and the 1970s. Settlers’ houses, a commercial building and a gas station. This feels surprising, also strange, but in a good way. Everything is deserted and spotlessly clean. No trace of people. Everything is new but old. 

The highlight is the Quelle-Fertighaus, a prefabricated mail order bungalow from the late sixties, which was transplanted to the museum from Hamburg, including its original interior and objects. The Bungalow tells of the life of a German family of five in the 1970s. Original pieces from the family’s possessions are there, including the teenage sons’ room with collectibles and posters, the family library, and the kitchen complete with appliances and dishes. This is a real house of a real family! We can get under the Gröll family’s skin, so deep that in the only curated room, we can listen to each family member’s favorite songs. A small exhibition, arranged before the parents’ death, talks about their typical German interests and tastes. The children did not only agree; one son even gives tours on weekends. 

Next to the entrance, the mother’s two coats are on the rack, ready to be worn. Rooms are blocked by a cord to prevent visitors from sitting down at the table, lying on the bed, or settling on the sofa to read a book from the shelf. Only the kitchen is accessible and here opening the cupboards is allowed. What a feeling. Exciting and voyeuristic. 

The curator reports that nothing has ever gotten away. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, while watering the flowers she finds that someone has added something. 



Open Air Museum at Kiekeberg


permanent exhibition