Early sources until the French Revolution
On March the 9th 1252 Count Arnold IV of Loon and Chiny (county of Loon) sold a forest, situated between Genk, Zonhoven and Hasselt, to the abbey of Herkenrode. This forest was called 'Buscurake' or Buksenrake ('buk' = beech, 'rake' = a part of land). The name later evolved into 'Bouchreyck' and eventually to Bokrijk. The Cistercian abbey of Herkenrode (in Kuringen near Hasselt) built a grangiae (abbey farm), dug out fish ponds and started forestry practices. The abbey farm was cultivated by lay brothers and from 1447 onwards functioned as an ordinary tenant farm. It remained the abbey's property until the years of the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1797 French Revolutionaries seized all properties of the Cistercian abbey and the same year sold it to a private investor from Maastricht.
Combining culture and nature
On the 21st of March 1938 the province of Limburg acquired Bokrijk. Governor of Limburg Hubert Verwilghen inspired the acquisition. Verwilghen strived for the creation of a public domaine that would combine culture and nature. His vision would be realized years later under the dynamic impuls of provincial governor Louis Roppe. On October 6 1953 Provincial Council of the Province of Limburg decided to create an open air museum in Bokrijk. With the post-war industrial revolution and the increasing development projects of the Fifties, Flanders' living environment was drastically changing. Agricultural buildings of important cultural and historical value for Flanders were disappearing from the landscape. Dr. Jozef Weyns was appointed to coördinate the project and remained in function as first conservator of the Open Air Museum of Bokrijk. The museum opened to the public on the 12th of April 1958 as contribution of the province of Limburg to the Expo '58 (Brussels World’s Fair).