ASTRA Museum is the most important continuer institution of the Transylvanian Association for Romanian Literature and Culture of the Romanian People, inaugurated on August 19th, 1905. The association came into being as a result of the Transylvanian Romanians’ wish to define their own ethno-cultural identity, in the ethnical conglomerate of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and given the cultural emancipation of all the peoples from the Centre and South-East Europe, following the example of the already constituted museums of the Transylvanian Saxons, Hungarians and Szekelys.
On the county road Sibiu-Rășinari, at the border of Sibiu City and at six km from the centre of the city, we can find ASTRA Traditional Folk Civilization Museum, the biggest museum institution of Romani and one of the biggest outdoor museums of the world.
The natural background of the museum is Dumbrava Forest, a natural reservation offering an enviable landscape, being part of an uninterrupted forest chain that connects Sibiu (via Under the Alders Park) to Păltiniș Resort (Cindrel Mountains). Looking from the central alley of the museum, from the dam of the lake, the shapes of the wind mills and smoke of the Old Pub are impressively projected onto the greenery, the mountain range keeping watch and ward over them. The nature was always extremely generous with the museum, offering to the outdoor exhibition thousands of colours each season.
Imagined initially as a museum of the folk technique, the museum rapidly evolved towards a more ambitious organization, representing today the entire traditional Romanian civilization. Transferring complex households, with shops and extensions intended for animal husbandry or aviculture, sheltering of transportation means, grain storing etc., the new development concept would change and obviously enrich the museum from Dumbrava Forest of Sibiu. From a landscape dominated by technique, the museum transforms into a complex authentic Romanian village, designed in a joyful natural area, the museum being „considerably advantaged by the varied conformation of the land, the existence of a water stream and a 6 ha lake and the diversity of the greenery (which make the monument-environment relationship extremely credible)”. Thus, the museum changes radically, developing the entire initial project, based on the folk technique, but it exhibits all the aspects of the traditional Romanian village.
You can visit ASTRA Museum to discover the various aspects of the Romanian village and of the peasants’ life, starting from the crafts that would help them earn their existence to the houses, churches, technical installations or pubs. The Romanian village of ASTRA Museum is maintained alive by making some of the monuments functional again as well as by organizing cultural programs that recreate events of the rural world – fairs, gastronomic events, traditional festivals etc. – and by enlivening the households and alleys with „inhabitants” who are taking care of the gardens arrangement and house maintenance. During the summer, the folk craftsmen exhibit their products on the alleys and pass the secrets of their craft to the workshop participants or to the simple visitors, dancers dressed up in Romanian costumes warm up the place in the rhythm of the music plaid by fiddlers and a part of the household extensions are (re)commissioned in order to shelter house animals which were always present in the older days villages.
In the Museum of Dumbrava Forest of Sibiu we have an area of cultural roots, a home for all of those who pay it a visit. The existence of the Romanian people, from the perspective of the rural life and various historic and cultural influences which altered it over the years, the ingenuity and inclination towards beauty of the folk craftsmen, the input offered by the nature to the places and all kind of interactions have generated facts and gestures which left their mark on the items and monuments exhibited here.
The ASTRA Traditional Folk Civilization Museum can be visited in numerous ways, from those who only want a breath of fresh air in Dumbrava Forest, to those who want to become familiar with the Romanian heritage, from those who want to know the authentic Romania to those who want to decipher the subtle tracks of time, the tracks of the countrymen over the years. For all of you, ASTRA Museum is an open book, a dogma book to read and reread with the mind and soul, at any age.