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Four decades after the founding of Ötztal’s Local Heritage Museum, the 350-year-old building in Längenfeld's hamlet of Lehn presents itself in new splendor. The director of the Ötztal Museums looks back and ahead. 

Farewell to home?

What has remained is the name dedicated to the motto "Home is what matters", a quote from the philosopher Wilhelm Schmid. In fact, home can be many things and locations. But what of all this should actually be shown in a renewed “Local Heritage Museum”?

In the 1960s, the founders of the local heritage museum reacted to increasing mass tourism and the general acceleration of society. At that time, traditional rural life was being abandoned at lightning speed. Equipment, devices, furniture and even entire buildings that had been used, maintained and repaired over generations were left behind. A local heritage museum should capture this past, which shaped the valley and its people, and make it accessible again.

Local heritage museum Längenfeld
Local heritage museum Längenfeld

The past does matter

To this day, this idea that you have to know your past in order to understand the present and to be able to shape the future is at the heart of the local heritage museum. Rural tools, objects of popular piety, everyday objects from the living and cooking area: why all these things, the use of which many people hardly recognize anymore, are not "indifferent" today, that is what the new exhibition in Ötztal’s Local Heritage Museum wants to underline.

Inheritance and remembering

Cultural heritage shapes a region: dealing with natural hazards that are omnipresent in Ötztal, coming to terms with death and loss that was once commonplace, using and shaping the alpine landscape - and togetherness in the village: inheriting, celebrating, marrying, negotiating and working together. All this connected and connects the people in the valley until today.

Above it all stands the “memento mori”, of which people were once probably more aware than we are today, engraved deep in the balcony at the museum's entrance: "This house is mine and yet not mine. To whom it belonged before me, it was not his own.” 200 years ago, having a home meant having rights as well as obligations – including obligations towards future generations.
Local heritage museum Längenfeld
Local heritage museum Längenfeld

More than just a backdrop

Ötztal’s Local Heritage Museum presents itself today as a quiet, idyllic place where you can sit on benches in front of old farmhouses, visit historic mills along Lehnbach brooklet or taste freshly baked, fragrant museum bread. However, the museum which consists of more than 11 buildings, is more than just a setting, The buildings that are several centuries old, have been renovated, but hardly changed. They are a historical place that could tell a lot - and will actually do so from summer 2023: in the form of an audio guide, people who once lived in Ötztal or even lived in the museum buildings themselves will tell more about their lives. The audio guide can be downloaded free of charge.

A museum for everyone

Anyone who appreciates encounters can take part in one of the guided tours and workshops for young and old. People who want to learn more about the history of the valley will find what they are looking for in the extensive museum shop, where the publication series of the Ötztal Museums is also available. Those who would like to do their own research are warmly invited to use the library and archives of Ötztal’s Memory Store. The history of the valley is documented in the more than 500 year old farmhouse. In addition, historical varieties are cultivated in the museum garden, and knowledge about the once flourishing flax cultivation and its processing is documented.
Local heritage museum Längenfeld
Local heritage museum Längenfeld

A look into the future

Ötztal’s Local Heritage Museum is open for exhibitions from May to October. The neighboring "Wastls-Haus", which is currently being renovated, should also create offers for the winter. After completion, drinks and snacks will be served in the “museum guest room”. Workshops on old handicrafts, art and creativity can be offered - and a special exhibition room under in the attic extends the already existing offer even in winter. In short: there is always something for everyone at Ötztal’s Local Heritage Museum.


Personal appointments by prior arrangement.

Publication series of the Ötztal Museums

Research is a central task of museums: it lays the foundation for further work. In order to make research sustainably accessible in the long term, the “Ötztal Museums Papers” are published. They document the work around the museums as well as the cultural heritage of Ötztal. The publications are available in the museum shop and in bookstores.
Edith Hessenberger

Author: Edith Hessenberger

The ethnologist and geographer is the head of the Ötztal museums. She also does research work and publishes - as a freelance cultural scientist - on the history of mountain agriculture, tourism and alpinism. Her work further focuses on narrative research and oral history.

This article was first published in July 2023.