Groß Raden, Kreis Sternberg (see map), is the location of a Slavic castle (Burgwall) and fortified settlement which was excavated between 1973 and 1980 by a team led by Ewald Schuldt. Schuldt wanted to conclude his splendid archaeological career with one last project about the Slavs, which at the same time would allow him to return home to Schwerin every evening. Groß Raden was chosen as a suitable site (Schuldt 1987: 3).
The excavations turned out to be a huge success. The well preserved finds and features resulted in many new insights into the life in and around a Slavic castle in two main phases of the 9th and 10th centuries AD (Schuldt 1985; 1987; Keiling 1989).
Following the excavations and Schuldt's retirement from the directorship of the Museum für Ur- und Frühgeschichte in Schwerin in 1981, an open-air museum and a separate museum building were planned and built. Ewald Schuldt remained in charge until his death in 1987; the museum building had been opened, in his presence, a short time before.
The open-air part of the museum, which covers 7000 m2 and was not finished until 1993, shows the reconstructions of a wall and gate, several craft workshops and houses, a temple, and an impressive fortified castle on a peninsula stretching into a lake (Voß 1992a; Sommer 1999). During the time of the Socialist GDR the museum conveyed at least two politically significant messages: it contributed in its content to a larger deterministic view of history, thus legitimising Marxist ideology (e.g. Coblenz 1983: 19), and it boosted in particular an awareness of the Slavic contribution to regional history, thus strengthening a slavophile identity among its visitors (e.g. Engel 1988: 4; cf. Sommer 1999).
The museum ran into major financial difficulties after Mecklenburg-Vorpommern became part of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its (then) director Rolf Voß founded a charity and managed for a few years to keep the museum going independently. Since 1995, the Freilichtmuseum Groß Raden is again part of the Archäologisches Landesmuseum and now a major tourist attraction in the region, attracting 80,453 visitors in 1995 (Lobin 1996).
Special events, including experimental archaeology and performances of ancient crafts, are conducted every year during a 'museum week' in July, providing a very popular form of entertainment.
In addition, there are various activities offered to school classes and other single events which take place in the museum.
The museum is a heritage-site where important parts of contemporaneous history culture become apparent. Part of the museum concept in recent years was, however, to prevent the site from becoming an over-commercialised visitor attraction, as the responsible archaeologists (notably Rolf Voß) felt that commercialisation would be detrimental for the educational aims of the museum, which is to a large extent based on scientific studies (Voß 1992b, cf. Sommer 1999).
Coblenz, Werner (1983) Bodendenkmalpflege und archäologische Forschung in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. In: F.Horst (ed.) Bodendenkmalpflege und archäologische Forschung, pp. 1340. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
Engel, Gerhard (1988) Freilichtmuseum Groß Raden, Kr. Sternberg. Eröffnung durch Professor Dr. G.Engel. Ausgrabungen und Funde 33, 15.
Keiling, Horst (1989) Altslawischer Tempelort Groß Raden. In: H.Keiling, Archäologisches Freilichtmuseum Gross Raden, pp. 1030. Museumskatalog 7. Schwerin: Museum für Ur- und Frühgeschichte.
Lobin, Gerd (1996) Backen, spinnen, weben wie vor tausend Jahren. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20.3.1996.
Schuldt, Ewald (1985) Groß Raden. Ein slawischer Tempelort des 9./10.Jahrhunderts in Mecklenburg. Schriften zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte, vol. 29. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
Schuldt, Ewald (1987) Der Eintausendjährige Tempelort Gross Raden. Schwerin: Museum für Ur- und Frühgeschichte.
Sommer, Ulrike (1999) Slavonic archaeology: Groß Raden, an open air museum in a unified Germany. In: P.G.Stone and P.G.Planel (eds) The Constructed Past. Experimental archaeology, education and the public, pp. 157170. London and New York: Routledge.
Voß, Rolf (1992a) Das archäologische Freilichtmuseum Groß Raden, Kr. Sternberg. Ausgrabungen und Funde 37, 125129.
Voß, Rolf (1992b) Kein Platz für ein Hilton der Slawenzeit. Schweriner Volkszeitung 15.10.1992, p. 9.
© Cornelius Holtorf