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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Crang, M. Nation, region and homeland history and tradition in Dalarna Sweden. Ecumene. 1999;6:447-470.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper looks at how one regional identity has interacted with a national identity, suggesting the relationships are more complex than either simply changing scale or a hierarchical set of affiliations. The paper focuses on one institution which has been involved in promoting ideas of national belonging and local identification simultaneously – the Open Air Museum. It takes the case of these institutions in Sweden, linking them to the particular circumstances of the beginning of the twentieth century. It examines how national scale and local institutions (Hembygdsgård) work to create senses of identity. It is argued they mobilize space and time through a particular configuration of history and tradition. This configuration is rooted in a specific historico-geographical moment that cannot be simply transposed from one end of a century to the other. The paper concludes by suggesting that a different relationship of tradition, museum and practice in these institutions is emerging.


B. Anderson, Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism
(London, Verso, 1983); R. Samuel and P. Thompson, eds, The myths we live b(yLondon,
Routledge); E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, eds, The invention of traditio(nCambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1983); H. Bhabha, Nation and narration(London,
Routledge, 1989).
2 D. Morley and K. Robins, Spaces of identity(London, Routledge, 1993); K. Robins,
‘Tradition and translation: national culture in its global context’, in J. Corner and S.
Harvey, eds, Enterprise and heritage: crosrsecnutrs in national cultuer(London, Routledge,
3 See P. Nora ‘Between memory and history: les lieux de memoi’r, eRs epresentation2s6
(1989), pp. 7–25, for a theoretical summary.
4 The term is taken from Michel de Certeau’s analysis of the ethnology and regulation
of folk dialects in France and the collecting practices of Nisard, in Heterologies
(Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1986). A similar focus on the practices of
entextualizing and performing folk life is outlined in D. Brenneis. ‘Some contributions
to social theory: aesthetics and politics in a translocal world’, Western Folkleor52
(1993), pp. 291–303.
5 Currently these museums have aroused controversy about their authenticity, the
spectacularization of the past and so forth; this paper looks at their origins in
Sweden in part to see whether these issues have always been bound into the form.
For examples, see J. Anderson, Time machines: the world of living hyist(oNrashville,
American Association for State and Local History, 1984); E. Cohen, ‘Authenticity and
commoditization in tourism’, Annals of Tourism Research 15 (1988), pp. 371–86; M.
Crang, ‘Living history: magic kingdoms or a quixotic quest for authenticity?’, Annals
of Tourism Research 23 (1996), pp. 415–31; P. Fowler, The past in contemporary society:
then, now (London, Routledge, 1992); W. Leon and M. Piatt, ‘Living history
museums’, in W. Leon and R. Rozenzweig, eds, History museums in the US: a critical
assessment(Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1989); K. Walsh, The representation of
the past in the present: museums and heritage in a post-moder(nL wonordlodn, Routledge,
Nation, region and homeland: history and tradition in Dalarna, Sweden 465
Ecumene 1999 6 (4)
6 Throughout the paper the Swedish titles of the movement and its sites have been
retained. This is principally because there is no easy translation of the hembygdpart
of the titles. Conventionally it would be rendered as ‘homeland’, but in English usage
this term tends to refer to national scales, while the localist version is a weaker ‘home
district’. The official cial title of the national hembygdsföreningwenas changed from Society
for the Preservation of Local Culture (Samfundet för hembygddv,å rfounded 1916) to
the Association for the Preservation of Local Nature and Culture in 1975, of which
individual groups are more literally the Local Heritage/History Society. The problem
with these terms is the loss of the emotive force of ‘homeland’. One possibility would
be to use the German heimatto convey the sense of belonging. However, heimat museums
(Heimatschutzand Heimatpfleg)e have overtones from National Socialist projects
from the 1930s. While this essay suggests that the local history museum does have
conservative leanings, using the German appears too loaded. So the root hembygdhas
been left, with suffixes of-föreningen , meaning ‘association’ or ‘movement’, and -gårdar,
referring to the outdoor museum sites themselves. Where these sites themselves
use the term gammelgår d (old enclosure/farmstead), this has been kept.
7 J. Fabian, Time and the other: how anthropology makes its (oNbejewc tYork, Columbia
University Press, 1983); M. Perkins ‘Timeless cultures: the ‘‘Dreamtime’’ as colonial
discourse’, Time and Society 7 (1998), pp. 335–51.
8 C. Duncan, ‘Art museums and the ritual of citizenship’, in I. Karp and S. Levine,
eds, Exhibiting cultures: the poetics and politics of museum d(iWspalashyington, DC,
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), p. 99.
9 W. Stafford, ‘ “This once happy country”: nostalgia for a pre-modern society’, in M.
Chase and C. Shaw, eds, The imagined past: history and nostalg(iMa anchester,
Manchester University Press, 1989); J. Clive, ‘The uses of the past in Victorian
England’ Salmagundi(1985/6), pp. 68–9, 48–65.
10 A. Dundes, ‘Nationalistic inferiority complexes and the fabrication of fakelore: a
reconciliation of Ossian, the Kinder-und Hausmurch,e nthe Kalevala, and Paul Bunyan’,
Journal of Folklore Resear2c2h(1985), pp. 5–18
11 R. Judge, ‘Merrie England and the Morris, 1881–1910’, Folklore 104 (1993),
pp. 124–43; G. Boyes, The imagined village: culture, ideology and the English folk revival
(Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1993).
12 The materiality of folk ethnology stressed a regional unity or co-adaptation of human
and physical landscapes. The journal of the Local Heritage Federation is thus called
Bygd och Natu.r If we take the connections made towards nature we can find the influence
of Forsslund in a strange combination of romanticism, socialism and Nietszche
animating turn of the century opinion. For a discussion see O. Löfgren, ‘Scenes from
a troubled marriage: Swedish ethnology and material culture studies’, Journal of
Material Culture 2 (1997), pp. 95–113.
13 This a quote from the author Gustav af Geijerstam in 1892 describing a visit to the
newly opened Skansen, quoted in J. Fryckman and O. Löfgren, Culture builders: an
historical anthroplogy of middle class( Nlifeew Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1987),
p. 61, see also M. Facos, Nationalism and the Nordic imagination: Swedish art of the 1890s
(Berkeley, University of California Press, 1998), p. 72.
14 O. Löfgren, ‘The nationalization of culture’, Ethnologia Europaea 19 (1989), pp. 2–23;
J. Fryckman and O. Löfgren, Culture builde,r sesp ch. 2, p. 128; J. Urry, ‘The tourist
gaze and the “Environment” ’, Theoyr, Culture and Societ9y (1992), pp. 1–26; for a different
take, see K. Olwig, ‘Recovering the substantive nature of landscape’, AAAG 86
(1996), pp. 630–53.
15 S. Helmfrid, ed., Landscapes and settleme,n Ntsational Atlas of Sweden (Stockholm, SNA,
466 Mike Crang
Ecumene 1999 6 (4)
1994); Ö. Hamrin and O. Norling, ‘I Tursternas landskap’, Svenska Turistföreningens
Årsbok(1997), pp. 26–41.
16 O. Löfgren, ‘Wish you were here! holiday images and picture postcards’, Ethnologia
Scandinavica(1985), pp. 90–107.
17 A project of the French financier Albert Kahn which between 1910 and 1931 produced
duced more than 70 000 colour plates for Les Archives de la plan,è tae project to record
the cultures, peoples and places of the world. H. Kruse, K. Jobs-Björklöf and R.
Andersson, Med Hyrbil och kamera till Dalarna 19(1D0alarna, Leksands Kulturnämd,
1994). The historic photos in this essay come from the collection.
18 B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ‘Objects of ethnography’, in Karp and Levine, Exhbiting cu-l
tures, p. 387.
19 Fryckman and Löfgren note: ‘Scholars and folklore collectors saw themselves as a rescue
team picking their way through a landscape of cultural ruins, where scraps and
survivals of traditional lifestyles could still be found. Through their enthusiastic work
they helped construct the myth of a traditional and national peasant culture’: Culture
builders , p. 59. English scholars used similar assumptions of the ‘remnants of the
peasantry’ and a mismatch between the unlettered peasant, repeating timeless folksong,
and the actual performers encountered. One effect was to downplay current
creativity and stress repetition; see Boyes, The imagined villag. e
20 M. Hellspong and B. Klein, ‘Folk art and folklife studies in Sweden’, in B. Klein and
M. Widbom, eds, Swedish folk art: all tradition is chan(gSetockholm, Harry N. Abrams,
1994), p. 21.
21 D. Poulot ‘Identity as self-discovery: the ecomuseum in France’, in D. Sherman and
I. Rogoff, eds, Museum culture: histories, discourses, spect(aLcolensd on, Routledge, 1994),
p. 73. The history of the French écomuséemovement is in part a resistance to highly
centralized and hierarchical cultural establishment; see also P. Hoyau, ‘Heritage and
the “conserver society” ’. in R. Lumley, ed., The museum time machine: putting cultures
on display(London, Comedia, 1988).
22 Figures from P. Johnson and B. Thomas, Tourism, museums and the local economy: the
economic impact of the North of England Open Air Museum at B(Aealdmeirsshhot, Edward
Elgar, 1992); A. Ehrentraut, ‘Globalisation and the representation of rurality: alpine
open air museums in advanced industrial societies’, Sociologica Ruralis36 (1996), pp.
4–26. Skansen recorded 1 685 474 visitors in 1988, Beamish, as the next most visited,
recorded 496 914.
23 C. Duncan and A. Wallach, ‘The universal survey museum’, Art History 3 (1980),
pp. 448–69.
24 While it has been suggested that this forms a peculiarly Anglo-American vision of a
timeless past, it would also seem true of Scandinavia: D. Lowenthal, ‘The timeless
past: some Anglo-American historical preconceptions’, Journal American Histyor75
(1989), pp. 1263–80.
25 P. Nora, ‘Berheen memory and history’, p. 17.
26 C. Sorensen, ‘Theme parks and time machines’, in P. Vergo, ed., The new museology
(London, Reaktion, 1989), p. 61.
27 The phrase is from T. Schlereth, ‘It wasn’t that simple’, Museum News(Jan./Feb. 1978),
pp. 36–44; see also Anderson, Time machine.s
28 Poulot, ‘Identity as self-discovery’, p. 66.
29 The context was of contemporaneous work on an atlas of languages in France and a
survey of Germanic cultures: S. Erixon, Svenska kulturgränser och kulturprovin(sKe.r
Gustav Adolfs Akademiens småskrifter 1) (Stockholm, Lantbrukförbundets Tidskrifts
AB, 1945), p. 7.
Nation, region and homeland: history and tradition in Dalarna, Sweden 467
Ecumene 1999 6 (4)
30 The context of the technologies of display can be followed in A. Pred, Recognising
contemprary European modern(itLieosndon, Routledge, 1994) or A. Pred, ‘Spectacular
articulations of modernity: the Stockholm Exhibition of 1897’, Geografiska Annaler 73B
(1991), pp. 45–84; see also T. Bennett, ‘The exhibitionary complex’, New Formations
4 (1988), pp. 73–102.
31 Cited in M. Skougaard, ‘The Ostenfeld Farm at the Open-Air Museum: aspects of the
role of folk museums in conflicts of national heritage’, Nordisk Museolog2i (1995),
p. 3.
32 Ibid.
33 Löfgren, ‘The nationalization of culture’, p. 11.
34 Olwig, ‘Recovering the substantive nature of landscape’, p. 633.
35 See M. Björkroth, ‘Hembyg:d a concept and its ambiguities’, Nordisk Museolog2i(1995),
pp. 33–40.
36 S. Erixon, Svenska kulturgränser och kulturprovi.n sKe.r Gustav Adolfs Akademiens
småskrifter 1 (Stockholm, Lantbrukförbundets Tidskrifts, 1945); Å. Campbell, S.
Erixon, N. Linqvist and J. Sahlgren, Atlas över Svensk Folkkultu(Ur ddevalla, Bokförlaget
Niloé, 1957). For its continuing influence, see S. Helmfrid, U. Sporrong, C. Tolin and
M. Widgren, ‘Sweden’s cultural landscape: a regional description’, in Helmfrid,
Landscapes and settleme.n Ats critical rethinking of some pitfalls can be found in O.
Löfgren, ‘Peasant ecotypes: problems in the comparative study of ecological adaptation’,
Ethnologia Scandinavica(1976), pp. 100–15.
37 U. Sporong, U. Ekstam and K. Samuelsson, Swedish Landscapes (Stockholm, Swedish
Environmental Protection Agency, 1995).
38 S. Helmfrid, et al., ‘Sweden’s cultural landscape’.
39 Erixon, Svenska kulturgräns,e pr . 10.
40 Ibid., p. 40.
41 The range of landscape types and their groupings can be viewed on the Skansen website, Bergslagen in Lower Dalarna is a separate
part of the museum.
42 The horse was popularized by being used a symbol at the New York World Exhibition
in 1939. This raises two points. First, in such exhibitions the layout of national pavilions
echoes the Skansen layout of regions. Second, the horse might equally be a symbol
of the acumen of the handicraft association at Nusnäs near Mora that sent 10 000
to be offered as souvenirs: U. Brück, ‘Identity, local community and local identity’, in
L. Honko, ed., Tradition and cultural identity (Turku, Nordic Institute of Folklore,
1988), p. 82. I-M. Greverus, ‘Nothing but a little Dala-horse, or how to de-code a “folk”
symbol’, Folklore Today (1976).
43 Hamrin and Norling, ‘I Tursternas landskap’.
44 Rosander, ‘The “nationalisation” of Darlecarlia’, in Honko, Tradition and Cultural
Identity, p. 21.
45 Ibid., pp. 107, 120; Hamrin and Norling, ‘I Tursternas landskap’.
46 B. Hansen, ‘The Siljan District’, in Helmfrid, Landscapes and settleme,n pts. 122.
47 B. Jacobsson, ‘The arts of the Swedish peasant world’, in Klein and Widbom, Swedish
folk art, p. 81.
48 Rosander, ‘Darlecarlia’, p. 114.
49 In other places this is a maypole but in Sweden the celebration is at the solstice.
50 Parallels of the role of an internal folk culture valorized by its difference might be
made with the Finnish nationalization of Karelia. See also P. Raivo, ‘The limits of
tolerance: the Orthodox milieu as an element in the Finnish landscape’, Journal of
Historical Geograph2y3 (1997), pp. 327–39, W. Wilson, Folklore and nationalism in m- od
468 Mike Crang
Ecumene 1999 6 (4)
ern Finland(Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1976).
51 The national total for Sweden is roughly 1000 hembygdsgdårand many more local
groups. See R. Anderson, Hembygdsgårdar Dalarna (Falun, Dalarnas Museum, 1978),
pp. 34–41; M. Leone, ‘Sketch of a theory for outdoor history museums’, Proceedings
of the Annual Meeting of the Association for Living Historical Farms and Agricultural
Museums, ed. P. Cousins (Washington, DC, Smithsonian Institution, 1987), p. 36; Leon
and Piatt, Living history museum. Ts otal visitor numbers in Sweden are unknown, but
extrapolation from on-site observations would suggest that a site might receive 12–20
visitors on a ‘normal’ day, probably nearer the upper end of that range, which over
the whole summer would suggest up to 60 000 visits in Dalarna excluding special
events such as dances or festivals.
52 A brief guide to his art and work is B. Sandström, Anders Zorn: an introduction to his
life and achievemen(tMs ora, Zornsamlingarna, 1996). A catalogue of his folk-life paintings
is B. Sandström, Folklivsskildraren, Anders Zno(rMora, Zornsamlingarna, 1992).
53 Rosander, ‘Darlecarlia’, p. 127; see also R. Anderson, Hembygdsgårdar Dalarna (Falun,
Dalarnas Museum, 1978).
54 One might also note the slightly earlier role played by the Swedish-speaking elite of
the Grand Duchy of Finland in promoting a Finnish culture in the struggle to assert
a national identity. Löfgren, ‘The nationalization of culture’, p. 11; cf. M. Engman,
‘Finns and Swedes in Finland’, in S. Tägil, ed., Ethnicity and nation building in the Nordic
world(London, Hurst & Company, 1995).
55 Björklund, Anders Zorn: hembygdsvårdar(eMnalung, Malungs Boktryekeri, 1972), p. 17.
56 Ibid., p. 18.
57 Ehrentraut, ‘Globalisation and the representation of rurality’.
58 For critical commentaries on regional open-air museums, especially as translated to
industrial pasts, see R. West, ‘The making of the English working past: a critical view
of the Ironbridge Gorge museum’, and T. Bennett, ‘Museums and “the People” ’, in
Lumley, The museum time mach;i nBe. Dicks, ‘The life and times of community: spectacles
of collective identity at the Rhondda Heritage Park’, Time and Society 6 (1997),
pp. 195–212.
59 The lanskapidea has tended to be mobilized in these terms, as focusing on common
rights, and has been deployed as the opposite of the aesthetic and social distance suggested
in English landscape art: Olwig, ‘Recovering the substantive nature of landscape’.
60 A.-K. Ekman, Community carnival and campaign: expressions of belonging in a Swedish
region, Stockholm Studies in Social Anthropology 25 (Department of Social
Anthropology, Stockholm University, 1991).
61 Ehrentraut, ‘Globalisation and the representation of reality’.
62 For a discussion of this presupposition, see R. Handler and J. Linnekin, ‘Tradition:
genuine or spurious’, Journal of American Folkelo9r7 (1984), pp. 273–90.
63 Studies also suggest that throughout history the upper classes have played a significant
role in shaping and influencing peasant costume: Hellspong and Klein, ‘Folkart’
p. 39. The idea that before the end of the nineteenth century there was an
autonomous sphere of peasant culture is not realistic. However, the idea of such a
split – pitting the innovative temporality of fashion against a timeless tradition – is a
powerful myth of modernity. Historical study suggests rather that we can find
peasant costume making appearances in masked balls of the eighteenth century and
fashions running through rural communities.
64 B. Jacobsson, ‘The arts of the Swedish peasant world’, in Klein and Widbom, Swedish
folk art, p. 81.
Nation, region and homeland: history and tradition in Dalarna, Sweden 469
Ecumene 1999 6 (4)
65 P.-U. Ågren, ‘Country photographers’ in Klein and Widbom, p. 114. Notably, the
county photographers seem filled with a similar archival impulse as the preservation
societies but are also closely associated with providing the sorts of folk and romantic
genre images tourists expected from art work.
66 Anderson, Time machine, sp. 22; for a typology, see Rosander, ‘Darlecarlia’, p. 99.
67 Björkroth, Hembygd.
68 Handler and Linnekin note a similar situation in Quebec, where so much attention
has been paid to folk culture for so long that the ‘work of folklore popularizers is
almost as traditional as tradition itself’: ‘Tradition’, p. 281.
69 Ekman’s study of Alfta parish recounts how the local history society runs the reestablished
Per’s Fair and Volas Day celebrations, with up to 200 involved in planning,
people in folk costume and so forth. The festival opens at the hembygdsgdårand then
processes into the village: A. K. Ekman, Community, carnival and campaign: expressions
of belonging in a Swedish regi(oSntockholm University, Dept of Social Anthropology,
1991), pp. 112–15. Indeed, activities such as fixing up the old fabodaroffer chances
of communal bonding beyond these events.
70 Ekman (ibid., p. 125) notes how festivals clearly traditionalize new material as well as
perpetuating old traditions in the local politics of Edsbyn.
71 As I write this, the current Skansen leaflets do, however, have a non-white Swede on
the cover.

Department of Geography