The museum was created on July 17, 1964. Traditional wooden architecture has been recognized at the time one of the most characteristic features of Russian Norths, and some of the buildings, churches, chapels, and peasant houses, scattered all over the Arkhangelsk Oblast, were put under state protection. The goal of the creation of the museum was to save the most outstanding wooden monuments, placing them under protection on the premises of the museum. The first building, a windmill (1744) from the village of Bor of Kholmogorsky District, was moved to the museum in 1968. In 1972, the first exhibit item, an icon showing St. James, was transferred to the museum. In parallel with the building transfer, it was decided that the museum will be divided into a number of sectors, representing different historical areas. The first sector, representing Kargopol and the Onega, was completed in 1973, and on June 1, 1973 the museum was open for public. In 1983, the museum became a member of the Europen Open-Air Museum Association. In 1986, the museum, which was previously subordinate to the Arkhangelsk Fine Art Museum, became an independent museum unit. In 1995, it was designated as a cultural monument of federal significance.