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Origin and development

The origin and development of the Wallachian Open Air Museum in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm

The idea of an open air museum was not originated from townsmen´ or spa guests´ minds. It was the idea of the Jaroněk brothers, particularly the elder, Bohumír. They came from Malenovice near Zlín of a poor family which took interest in art craft – father was a dyer, one uncle made church organs and so on. Bohumír studied at the secondary school in Nový Jičín, and during an excursion to the neighbouring small town of Štramberk his interest was fixed on Wallachian timbered cottages.

Later he travelled over the world as a painter on porcelain, photographer, painter and graphic artist. In his diary we find notes from Cairo, Dubrovník, Budapest, Munich and other cities. But it was important for him to visit the Ethnological Czech-Slav Exhibition in Prague in 1895. The most attractive and remarkable part was the representation of an exhibition containing folk buildings from the region of Wallachia, designed by an architect Dušan Jurkovič. The famous inn „On the last penny", where the Wallachian musician Pelár´s band played, stood there, too. Bohumír also visited the millennium exhibition in Budapest where folk buildings from all over Hungary were displayed.

In 1909 the brothers settled in Rožnov for good. The idea of an open air museum was already maturing in their minds, inspired by efforts to preserve the houses on Rožnov square, and the journey of Alois Jaroněk to Scandinavia showed them the way. He visited the newly installed open air museum in the town of Aarhus in Denmark and also inspected the first open air museum in the world, the Stockholm Skansen.

The expression of the first open air museum in the world, Skansen, is used both abroad and in our country for any open air museum. The Swedes themselves use the word „skansen" only for their oldest open air museum because the museum was established on the site of ramparts which is called „skansen" in Swedish.

In 1911 the museum society was founded in Rožnov and in 1913 the first plan of the museum was worked out. The war put a stop to plans however, and they could be materialized some years later. The Jaroněk brothers and the society made use of the situation when the first folklore festival called the „Wallachian year" was being prepared in Wallachia in 1925. They promoted that the festival was held on the grounds of the newly installed open air museum, where on a clearing in the spa park, two large houses from the square – the town hall and the town house from the mid-18th century – and several small structures had been erected.

In 1928 the old inn, dating probably from the 16th century, had been added, and when Bohumír died in 1933, a copy of the mayor´s house from Velké Karlovice was built. During the World War II a group of carpenters under Michal Fabián erected a wooden church, using plans of the church in Větřkovice near Příbor which had burned down in 1878. Thus the first stage of the development of the Wallachian Open Air Museum was completed. The original part was later called the Little Wooden Town.

The plan of the second part- the Wallachian Village- was made in 1950s and realized in the following decade. The aim of its development was a truthful reconstruction of the model of the Wallachian village. And so on the clearing „On the hillside" above Rožnov, 40 structures belonging to a typical Wallachian village were erected.

The construction of the third part of the Museum- the Watermill Valley- which was launched in 1982, was an even greater challenge to the builders. It was not just a matter of erecting a flour mill, a saw mill, a wool mill and a forge but also incorporation them into the village to give a picture of the social conditions and life of the workers in the villages.

The most important feature at present is the aim to revive the forgotten traditional technological methods, folk art and customs and the reconstruction of social life, trades and ways of entertainment of our ancestors.

The great attention is paid to farming. The traditional plants are gathered with traditional technologies. Sheep milk and wool are also processed in the old way. Added to all there are over one hundred old kinds of fruit trees and an even greater number of ornamental flowers´ types cultivated in Wallachia as well as the „Matocha´s" farmstead with its almost full livestock of all kinds of farm animals.

The second circle of activity is the domain of folk art and folk artists who exhibit their articles for sale and demonstrate their skills in front of numerous museum visitors. The Museum helps to keep the old traditional skills alive, and it is good to find that young people learn and develop these arts.

The third sphere, folklore and customs etc., has won the greatest popularity. The Museum arranges traditional folklore festivals with performances by folk ensembles and authentic interpreters of folklore. The best known events are the „Rožnov Festivities" and the „Oldtime Fair".

Thus the Rožnov Museum fulfils a wish of its founder, Bohumír Jaroněk that the Museum should be living.


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