Living Memory: Taking Cultural Conservation Outdoors

Living Memory: Taking Cultural Conservation Outdoors

While museums and archives have an undoubtable role to play in preserving and educating us about the past, they have one distinct flaw: they’re static. Cataloging items and exhibiting them to the public is necessary, but not sufficient to create the sense of engagement that really binds us to our history.

Just like watching a documentary isn’t the same as experiencing nature, certain traditions can only be perpetuated by actually practicing them.

Building a Finnish Log Cabin from Scratch

For most of us, the biggest dwelling we’ve ever built out of wood might be a birdhouse. For a team of Finnish carpenters, nothing short of erecting a traditional structure in the traditional way will do, without using a single power tool – in fact, without using a measuring tape.

The process starts by felling trees and leaving them to dry for a couple of months. These are roughly squared using an axe, which is the same tool used to carve the joins by eye. Little is measured, except to physically match one part to another. Some of the techniques employed date from the 15th century. Note that what you see in the video isn’t taking place in a museum: this is how many forest cabins are still built today.

If you have the space and physical wherewithal, this might be an interesting project to take on, resulting in a shed or cottage that not only looks fantastic, but is also durable and well insulated.

Most people will prefer to use a chainsaw for at least the main sawing and rough finishing jobs, but novices should use caution. The ChainCutting website offers some good advice, which basically comes down to the fact that the knots and other uneven parts of unfinished wood can easily snag the chain and ruin your day. Personal protective gear is basically a prerequisite, regardless of how confident you feel in your abilities.

The Cheese Caverns of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon

Just like “champagne” has to come from a particular region to bear that name, all roquefort cheese sold as such has spent some time within this mountain. When you visit this site, you’re not touring a museum but a working factory.

Although thankfully cheesemakers of some older generation had the presence of mind to buttress the cavern roof, two remarkable conditions continue to make this subterranean location special. The humidity level never strays far from 90% or so, and the cave’s soil is naturally host to the strain of bacterium which gives roquefort its…exceptional flavor.

The various caves are all owned by seven different companies, some of which provide guided tours. Foodies will be interested, but others less so, especially if they don’t speak French.

Replica Ships

Seen from one angle, the history of trade is the history of Europe. From Mediterranean sailing to the colonial era, how far a country’s merchants could travel was often the major determinant of how rich and powerful it was.

Although not all replica ships are seaworthy, an unexpectedly large number actually put out to sea and make long voyages. Some are used as movie props, some offer paying passengers a unique experience, and some others are simply built by volunteer enthusiasts to prove a historical theory or for fun. These projects literally span millennia in their scope, from ancient Greece and Rome, to the voyages of discovery, to the early days of steam power.

Ironbridge Gorge

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in Britain covers ten separate museums as well as three dozen historical sites, all located within a small (500+ hectares) area called the “birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”.

One of its most interesting attractions is a recreated Victorian town including costumed actors performing tasks in much the same way as was done more than two centuries ago, such as printing, blacksmithing and manufacturing candles from animal fat. In order to maintain an authentic atmosphere, the buildings here are either original, replicated from known examples, or have been transported piece by piece from other locations and rebuilt on site.

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