The piercing pounding of the mighty scythe rings through the green valley of the Mäckinger stream – no wonder that the old blacksmiths suffered from deafness. Other locations are also full of activity. An agate grinder is cutting unprocessed agate, a clog maker is hollowing out a piece of willow with his carving knife, a dyer is hard at work printing and dying material, whilst a papermaker piles up sheets of damp fibrous paper onto felt mats. There are over 60 historic workshops on the site of the Westphalian Open-Air Museum in Hagen. They originate from many different areas in Westphalia and have either been re-built here or constructed as life-size replicas of the originals. Around a third of the workshops are in operation. The working demonstrations evoke the world of the 18th and 19th centuries and show the many different influences of early industrial practice on traditional crafts and trades. A long walk around the two and a half kilometre grounds of the museum thus becomes a trip back into the history of crafts in the Märkisch Sauerland region.
Paper, textiles, and above all cutting instruments are the major craft industries in the region. For centuries a huge number of blade-grinders’ forges were in operation in the woods around Hagen. This explains why the local open-air museum also houses the German Forge Museum. The small iron trade contributed greatly to making the region more industrialised than the neighbouring Ruhrgebiet until around 1850. The museum takes account of this tradition. Visitors are encouraged to touch the equipment, look, participate and satisfy their appetites. For one of the trades on show here is a bakery containing a 100 year old wood-fired oven and sweet-smelling rolls, bread and cakes. Lovers of food and drink can also take their pick from home-made smoked sausages, a mustard mill, freshly brewed beer, a fruit distillery and even a tobacco factory. The idea for this wide-ranging museum was first put forward in the 1930s and it was opened in 1973. Its location in the Mäckinger stream valley ensures that the workshops have enough supplies of water, with the additional bonus of being situated in a delightfully attractive landscape.