Quick Links

Sometimes it's difficult to picture a historic site as it would have been in its prime, especially if it's a time and place that's so removed from anything that you're familiar with. To help the everyday visitor really imagine the site and experience it as it would have been, many history museums use an educational and programming technique called "living history."

Living history involves costumed performers (these performers are often also historians who do extensive research on the era) who share stories of the historical time and place and/or do demonstrations like trade demonstrations or folk performances. While this may bring up bygone memories of field trips to Colonial Williamsburg, there are fantastic living history museums all around the world that tell stories of history in new, unique, and entertaining ways.


Related: This is What You'll See in America's Strangest Museum Exhibits

Greenfield Village At The Henry Ford

A consortium of four immersive sites, the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, represents over 250 acres of museum space, with Greenfield Village serving as a living history centerpiece. Not only are the educators costumed, the site itself is extremely experiential, allowing visitors to explore 300 years of American innovation.

Greenfield Village doesn't just rely on costumed performances or antique buildings but offers experiential engagement opportunities. You can experience the turn of the 20th century and its innovations directly via Ford Model T rides, vintage baseball games, and immersive shopping at an Edwardian milliner. You can time travel even further back in history by visiting Greenfield Village's 19th-century farms, learning about scientific farming and farm technology, and eating at the 1830 restaurant.

  • Open: Every Day, 9:30am-5pm
  • General Admission for Greenfield Village: $35; Seniors: $31.50; Youth (5-11): $26.25

Gyeongbokgung Palace

When it comes to living history, East Asian history museums are often overlooked compared to their western counterparts. However, East Asian museums do a fantastic job bringing history to life. In Seoul, South Korea, Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of those sites that makes living history in a couple of different and unique ways.

The heart of the Joseon Dynasty since the 14th century, Gyeongbokgung Palace stood at the center of all royal and government affairs. Exhibiting such, the palace today conducts a living history demonstration of the changing of the royal guard during the Joseon Dynasty. If you were impressed by Buckingham Palace's changing of the guard, Gyeonbokgung Palace's ceremony is bound to awe with the bright colors of Joseon costumes, the interesting weapons of the era, and the stark sound of historic drums. While Buckingham Palace's changing of the guard is an active ceremony, Gyeonbokgung Palace's ceremony is a historical demonstration that leans into the tradition and culture of Joseon Korea.

Visitors are encouraged to participate in the living history too by renting traditional Korean dresses or hanboks. There are even some tour companies that offer photography services to capture you dressed as a traditional Korean noble person.

  • Open: Every day except Tuesdays, 9:00am-5:00pm/6:00pm/6:30pm depending on the month
  • General Admission: 3,000 KRW; Youth (7-18): 1,500 KRW

Related: 10 of the Best Ancient Museums To Visit in East Asia

Blists Hill Victorian Town At The Ironbridge Valley Of Invention

Ironbridge Valley of Invention is a multi-site, multi-era destination that spans six square miles of the Ironbridge Gorge near Telford Town Center in Shropshire, United Kingdom. Ironbridge Gorge itself is a World UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Blists Hill Victorian Town is a living history standout here.

Blists Hill Victorian Town's goal is detailed immersion, and they achieve that with their high-quality costumes and environmental reproductions--they even have visitors exchange money from modern coins to reproduction Victorian money so that even the simplest transactions contribute to the overall living history immersion.

Throughout Ironbridge Valley of Invention, and at Blists Hill Victorian Town particularly, visitors can experience centuries of Britain's technological advancement, notably those changes were seen in the 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution. Visitors peruse period shops, learn about ominous green candles (we warn you, you don't want those green candles), can observe trade demonstrations like one of the printing press, and can even hop aboard a Victorian train to get to the nearby mining town.

If you enjoy Blists Hill Victorian Town, you can expand your ticket to include the other sites that make up the Ironbridge Valley of Invention. Including the Ironbridge and Tollhouse from which the area gets its name. It is the world's first iron bridge; visitors have been traveling there since 1779 to catch a peek at this engineering marvel.

  • Open: Monday-Sunday, 10am-5pm
  • General Admission: £21.50; Youth: £14.00; other sites are on separate tickets which visitors have the option of adding on
  • Parking: £5 all-day