Kommern is one of the open air museums, deriving from the pattern established at Skansen, which were established in the former Federal Republic of Germany in the decades after the Second World War. Its founding director was Adelhart Zippelius (1916-2014), a native of Karlsruhe, who studied archaeology at university and from 1952 embarked on a study, published in 1957, of farmsteads in the lower Rhineland for the Rhenish Landesmuseum in Bonn. He was appointed to direct a new museum reflecting the social history of the region in 1958, and superintended its establishment at Mechernich-Kommern in the Eifel until his retirement in 1981. He was a leading figure in the European open air museums movement.
The museum extends over 95 ha. and includes 65 buildings from the Rhenish provinces that became part of Prussia in 1815. The buildings come not just from the Eifel but from places east of the River Rhine in the Bergisches Land, the Siegtal and the Lahntal and include several wind- and water-mills. There are regular demonstrations of the skills of wheelwrights, blacksmiths and basket makers, and visitors are able to see the techniques used in the preparation, spinning and weaving of hempen and flaxen fabrics. Many farm animals and poultry live on the site, and the museum has a collection of historic horse-drawn vehicles which are kept in constant use.