The Village Museum, lying on the Herăstrău lake shore in Bucharest, is one of the biggest and the oldest outdoors museum in Europe.
In the 1930's, in Europe there were only two open-air museums: The Skansen Museum in Stockholm (1891) and Bigdo Museum in Lillehamer (Norway). In our country, at that time, existed the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania in the Hoia Park in Cluj, founded in 1929 by Professor Romulus Vuia. In Romania, the idea of creating an outdoor museum appeared since the second half of the nineteenth century: Alexander Odobescu proposed the presentation in the Universal Exhibition in Paris, in a special pavilion, of monuments of popular architecture.
Later, scientist Alex Tzigara Samurcaş would consider bringing in the Ethnographic, National Art, Decorative Arts and Industrial Arts Museum in Bucharest, founded by him in 1906, of "authentic and complete of all households most important regions inhabited by Romanians". The project begun by exposure in 1909 in this museum, of the "Ceauru" house, a real wood architectural jewel of Gorj County. All these initiatives were the founding premises of the appearance of open air museums in Romania: the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania in Cluj, with regional specific, and the National Village Museum "Dimitrie Gusti" in Bucharest, with national character.
The creation of the National Village Museum was the goal of an intensive and sustained research, also as museography experiments developed over more than a decade, coordinated by Dimitrie Gusti, founder of the Sociological School of Bucharest. As head of the Sociological Department of the University of Bucharest, Gusti organized between 1925-1935, with specialists in different fields (sociologists, ethnographers, folklorist, geographers, statisticians, physicians) and his students, research campaign with interdisciplinary nature, in a relatively large number of villages. At the end of those campaigns were organized, with items brought from the field, two major exhibitions in 1934 and 1935, as a prelude to the future open-air museum in Bucharest.
Based on these experiences, in 1936, in only two months, Gusti could build the outstanding National Village Museum. In that short time, teams of specialists and students (the same who participated in field campaigns), led by Professors D. Gusti and H.H. Stahl, purchased from studied villages buildings (houses, household annexes, churches, plant) and indoor objects (furniture, ceramics, fabrics, tools, etc.),considered as representative for their places of origin. In compliance with the criterion of authenticity and the respect for local traditions of construction, the buildings were reconstructed by craftsmen from the origin villages of the monuments, who worked under supervision of the specialists Henry H. Stahl and Victor Ion Popa. The official opening was on May 10, 1936, in the presence of King Carol II and for the public a week later, on May 17.
In its early stage, between 1936-1940, the Museum had a surface of 6.5 ha, with 33 authentic sites transferred from the villages studied. Their arrangement was made after a plan developed by the playwright and designer Victor Ion Popa. This plan, which is largely true today, tends to reproduce the map of Romania, by grouping the monuments of architecture and popular technique on the criterion of geographical proximity of villages of origin, in areas representing major historical provinces of the country. The museum has today over 100,000 m2, and contains 272 authentic peasant farms and houses from all over Romania.