vzw Het Domein Bokrijk


Contact: +32 11 265 300
Postal address: Bokrijklaan 1 3600 Genk
Geographic Coverage of NGO’s expertise: Belgium

URL: https://www.bokrijk.be

Year of creation: 1958

Safeguarding measures:

- identification, documentation, research (including inventory-making)
- preservation, protection
- promotion, enhancement
- transmission, (non-)formal education

Main areas of work related to the Convention:

The Domain and the museum has over the years, from its opening in 1958, created a substantial pool of knowledge on local building traditions, materials, techniques, crafts, tools, rituals and building and crafting practices in Flanders. This knowledge has been tested and proven in daily practice in the museum. There are three groups of personnel that are actively involved in these forms of intangible cultural heritage: Marc Jansen and Kristien Ceyssens, respectively head and architect to the technical department; Jef Brebels, Johny Lowet, Raoul Putzeys amongst others, respectively carpenter and wagon maker, thatcher, cooper and allround restoration worker; Raf Schepers, head of collections, and Hilde Schoefs, curator, who research the history of crafts and craftsmanship and the rituals and practices concerned. The museum participates since several years in the work of the Interface Centre for Living Heritage (www.sle.be). In concreto this means the museum and domain of Bokrijk help preserving rare breeds of local historical livestock as sheep, cows, pigs, horses, goats, turkeys, …by breeding new genetic offspring. The person responsible for this program is Frank Libens, head of fauna to the technical department since 1996. The Domain and the museum organised in 2010 the 29th edition of its Dialect- and Street Theatre Festival. Frank De Roeck, cultural worker and musician, is responsible for this programme. On Whit Monday a selection of traditional forms of street theatre are performed in their respective dialects by local groups from all over Flanders. Together with quality music groups, that bring a historical repertoire on replica’s of historical music instruments and in confrontation with more recent artistic performances these traditional performances are given a stage to present their work to a large, and socially and culturally diverse public. It is every year more difficult to attract quality performances rooted in traditional practices as these performances are partly looked upon as old fashioned and out of time. The museum considers it to be its role to safeguard these performances by giving them an annual stage. The Domain and museum is known for its original and replica installations of historical games and play as for example archery, playing skittles, curling, 'struifvogelen', 'bikkelen', ... and for its array of regional and historical parlour games. Visitors can not only try for free parlour games and sports, they can also take the challenge to compete in teams in some of these historical games guided by a trained museum guide.The person responsible for installing this diverse programme in the museum during the last decade is Bea Vaes, head of the educational cell, who previously won her spurs working for what is now Sportimonium, the museum of sports and games (www.sportimonium.be). Luc Frenken, historian, is responsible for the 1st person living history in the Haspengouw part of the museum. He researches food, clothes, habits, micro and macro history and brings this together in daily performances. In 2009 the museum started together with FARO. The interface centre for cultural heritage in Flanders and other local organisations in Flanders in partnership with Alan Govenar (Documentary Arts inc, Dallas) an exhibition called 'Treasures in/from People', which will travel around Flanders in 2010-2011 accompanied by public activities (see below). It opened in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris April 2010. In the exhibition we try to translate the meaning of the concepts 'intangible heritage' and 'living human treasures' as defined by UNESCO in the 2003 Convention to the visitors. Americans from the National Heritage Fellowship are portrayed next to Flemish people who are passionate about their knowledge, practice or skill. The kick-off of the above mentioned exhibition and tour is on July 18th 2010 when the museum organises the first edition of 'Passion & Tradition. Living human treasures in Flanders'. This day the visitors can watch demonstrations, performances, skills, … from passionate and skilled people concerning intangible heritage all over the museum. People can not only watch, but are actively invited to ask questions, to give it a try themselves in free workshops, to discuss the Convention in a debate, … A special link is made to the USA, as guest country. On July 19th 2010 the museum organises together with FARO an international colloquium titled ‘Visibility, Awareness, Dialogue. Learning from elsewhere: the USA’. Guest speakers that day are Barrey Bergey (director of Folk and Traditional Arts, National Endowment for the Arts), Peggy Bulger (director of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress) and Alan Govenar. Hilde Schoefs, curator, who previously worked for FARO as researcher and member of staff responsible for oral and intangible heritage, has taken the lead for these interconnected initiatives.


The Domain Bokrijk houses a large open air museum. Bokrijk is the museum in Flanders where in a 1-to-1 scale peasant houses from all over Flanders in open air are shown, preserved and studied. Through its unique collection of buildings, objects, churches, chapels, interiors, tools, its knowledge about crafts, rituals and practices in daily life and historical fauna and flora the museum wants visitors to experience what it could have meant to live in the countryside in what is now called Flanders. Through interactive means and media (theatre, music, word, images) and in an appealing and understandable language the museum aims to confront people living in the 21st Century with the way in which a former rural society - its people, dwellings, and daily practices - has gradually changed by showing them the cradle of the present. Moreover the museum wants to tease and wonder a culturally diverse public, to have them rethinking their own lives and memories and to make them sensible about the relativity of past, present and future. The museum aims to keep and upgrade the innovative methods it works with to achieve this mission for a socially and culturally diverse public. In short, the Domain Bokrijk including the Open Air Museum Bokrijk aims a culturally and socially diverse public to appreciate, enjoy and understand the cultural (both tangible and intangible) and natural heritage since 1500 on the countryside in what is now called Flanders by collecting, preserving, protecting, researching and valorising aspects from the culture of daily life.


The Domain and Open Air Museum of Bokrijk has a longstanding tradition of collecting, sharing, preserving and staging intangible heritage with and by both communities and individual practitioners. The museum started in 2008 'Learning from the Past' where skilled craftsmen teach their skills and their knowledge on wagonry making, cooping and thatching amongst others in a one to one learning trajectory with a pupil. This form of life long adult learning is supervised by the Personnel Department of the Province of Limburg. The museum shares its diverse knowledge on intangible cultural heritage forms and practices actively within a broader community of open air museums (AEOM, www.aeom.org), that meets yearly. Next to these official meetings the museum holds close contacts with several open air and other museums, to share knowledge, as for example in 2009 with the Open Air Museum of Arnhem, het Huis van Alijn, Sportimonium, and the Open Air Museum Kommern. In 2010 the museum was host to two delegates from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture making a study on the ratification of the Convention and the manner in which different countries, ministries and cultural heritage organisations try to implement it and translate it to the public. As stated below 6c the museum offers yearly on Whit Monday a stage to performing groups of street theatre from all over Flanders. This is the only occasion where street theatre performances from different regions and different sorts are shown together. Also mentioned below 6c is the first edition of the museum festival 'Passion & Tradition. Living human treasures in Flanders'. This day the visitors can watch demonstrations, performances, skills, … from passionate and skilled people concerning intangible heritage all over the museum. Individuals and groups that will share their expertise that day are amongst others Frank Degruyter (expert narrator), Guy Vandecasteele (expert puppet making), Magda Vaes (expert in breast feeding advice), the ladies from Kant in Vlaanderen (lace making), the Steltlopers van Merchtem, the ‘krulbollers’.