The Bokrijk – collection

The museum has an impressive collection of over 40,000 artefacts associated with everyday life throughout Flanders. The majority of these artefacts are kept in the new depot, while the rest are on display in the museum’s historical buildings. As far as possible, the histories, customs, techniques, and other information concerning these artefacts were also collected. In short, the museum collects, investigates and unlocks intangible cultural heritage.

The Bokrijk collection

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The Bokrijk Open-Air Museum collection mainly consists of artefacts from everyday life, with particular emphasis on rural pieces, which illustrate life from the 17th to the early 20th century. Because of its diversity and comprehensiveness, this collection is unique in Flanders, especially the sub-collections relating to agriculture & nutrition, living culture and crafts. In geographical terms, the artefacts originate from the five Flemish provinces.

The collection is divided into a number of sub-collections, which are briefly described here.

With nearly 15,000 artefacts, living culture is the most important sub-collection. This facet of daily life was extensively studied by the first curator, Joseph Weyns (1913-1974), in his four-volume work “Volkshuisraad in Vlaanderen” (Common Household Goods in Flanders). It concerns furniture (wardrobes, tables, chairs, beds etc.), tableware and kitchenware (earthenware pitchers, cutlery, crockery, etc.), household utensils (fireplace utensils, irons, etc.), artefacts for sanitation and hygiene (bedpans, bathtubs, medical instruments, etc.), folk art and decoration (drawings, framed popular prints etc.), artefacts concerning education and development (satchels, slate and slate pencils, blackboards, etc.), play and leisure (toys, popular games, etc.), religion and popular superstitions (crucifixes, statues of saints, religious prints, etc.), and finally all kinds of personal items (smoking paraphernalia, eyeglasses, canes, etc.). The agriculture and nutrition sub-collection is without doubt a reference collection for all Flanders. Specifically, it includes land preparation and harvesting implements (shovels, rakes, scythes, ploughs, harrows, rollers, cutting and threshing machines, winnowers etc.), dairy processing equipment (churns, cream separators etc.), animal husbandry items and more. The clothing and textile sub-collection is specifically concerned with authentic historical collection items, not the clothes worn by actors as part of the Living History exhibition, since the latter are replicas based on historical examples. This very vulnerable and fragile collection includes textiles (capes, trousers, vests, skirts, hats, etc.) and production tools (looms, spinning wheels, sewing machines, etc.).

The crafts sub-collection includes hand tools and implements for professions such as the shoemaker, blacksmiths, baker, wheelwright, cooper, basket maker, brewer, distiller, syrup maker, etc. Some of these professions are demonstrated at the Open-Air Museum.

The sub-collection transport and transportation includes carts, wagons, wheelbarrows and bicycles.

Finally, there is a modest sub-collection dealing with trade and services, which includes professions such as the pharmacist, barber and innkeeper.

The Bokrijk collection was largely acquired through donations. Where possible, we record as much contextual information as possible: for example, we interview the owners and/or users of the donated items. Generally, artefacts without any contextual information are currently not accepted, unless it concerns exceptional pieces.