The open air museum at Detmold, capital of the former principality of Lippe-Detmold, is reckoned the largest of its kind in Germany. It extends over 90 ha and its collection totals more than a hundred buildings. It displays in rich detail the material culture of peasant society in a prosperous agricultural region in the period before the Industrial Revolution.
The museum project was launched in 1960 and the site was opened to the public in the early 1970s. Most of the larger buildings are farmsteads, many with elaborately carved wooden ornamentation at their entrances some of which include the names of their builders or owners. They are furnished with fixtures, appliances and tools sufficient for a largely self-sufficient way of life. There are spacious kitchens, with cast iron stoves, copper and pewter utensils hanging from racks and ceramic plates and dishes ranged on shelves. There are chests with stored wool and flax, spun and unspun, as well as sheets, towels and table linen. Some farmhouses have drying ovens for plums, apples and pears, bath houses, stores for oats, bee houses or flax-drying ovens.
The lives of the craftsmen in communities of this kind are illustrated by bakehouses, a wood-working shop, two bleach green huts, and a pottery with its clay warehouse. There are several impressive windmills and a water mill. The museum regularly demonstrates flour milling, blacksmithing and pottery manufacture, and illustrates important historical themes through its temporary exhibitions. In 2015, for example, it focussed on forced labour during the Second World War.