The original purpose of the visit to Skansen and the Nordiska Museet was to explore and research similar items in their collections to artefacts we hold at Haslemere Educational Museum. We currently know very little about how the Swedish objects in our collection were made and used by the people that owned them, and I hoped to explore the collections in Stockholm and consult with their curators to further our knowledge of Haslemere’s collection. I also wished to consult some of Joseph King’s (a former Curator of the Peasant Art Collection) correspondence with the swedish museums that is held in their archives.
We also want to develop the potential of our European Peasant Art collection by applying for Designation from Arts Council England in 2016, so the visit was also to help us gain a greater understanding of our collection to inform our application. I also wanted to develop relationships with the curators in Stockholm, make them aware of our collection, and possibly collaborate on research or a project.
On my first day in Stockholm I visited Skansen Open Air Museum where I was hosted by curators Andreas Lindblad and Johanna Krumlinde. We discussed Haslemere’s collection of Swedish Peasant Art and then they gave me a very detailed tour of Skansen including many of the buildings which are not open to the public. I saw many objects similar to those in Haslemere’s collection in their original context and learnt a great deal about how these objects were used and made.
The next day I went back to Skansen and looked at some of their archive material which unfortunately was not useful for my research because the letters I was looking for had been transferred to the Nordiska Museet. Luckily, I was able to view the material at the Nordiska Museet the next day.
On the third and final day of my trip I met Ulla-Karin Warburg and her colleagues at the Nordiska Museet. Ulla-Karin gave me an extensive tour of their Swedish folk art collections and then in the afternoon I viewed letters in their archive. Her colleague and I discussed the possible connection between a Haslemere collector and the founder of their museum, which we are both going to collaboratively research further. Ulla-Karin and I discussed Haslemere’s collection and she has identified that we may have wrongly identified the painter of our Swedish wall hangings. She has offered to research this further for us.
Whilst at the Nordiska Museet I visited their temporary exhibition of painted Swedish furniture, which is very innovatively displayed. Ulla-Karin was involved in the curating the exhibition and she gave me a tour of the exhibition and explained how they curated the exhibition and where they borrowed objects from.
I gained a greater knowledge and understanding of the Swedish objects in Haslemere’s collection from my visit to Stockholm. Seeing similar objects to those in Haslemere’s collection displayed in their original context was invaluable. I had no previous knowledge of how these objects were made, used and displayed but from my visit I can now add more information on collections database and plan our proposed re-interpretation of the collection. Both Museums display similar items to those in our collection and have provided me with new inspiration for the display and interpretation of the Haslemere collection. Hopefully some further collaborative research will identify the correct artist of our wall hangings. If we can prove a link between our original collector and Hazelius, founder of the Nordiska Museet, this would be very interesting and would prove that Davies, our collector, was an innovative collector of his time.
I had not travelled internationally on behalf of the museum before so it was a wonderful experience for my own professional development. I have also developed a much wider knowledge of the objects in the collection that I care for.
I think one of the most important lessons I learnt from my experience was that the colleagues I encountered in Sweden were very welcoming and willing to help me, work with me, and share their research. I have encountered fellow professionals in the past who were very protective of their own research, quite rightly, but the colleagues I met in Sweden were more than happy to share information with me and also help me with my own research for nothing in return. I hope that next time I am approached by a researcher or museum professional I will be open and welcoming in return.
Also I think it was important that I took with me information about Haslemere’s collection to give the colleagues I met a better idea of the museum I come from. I gave them books on our collection and in advance I sent them specific information on Swedish objects in our collection so when I met them in person they had a good idea of the collection and type of objects I was researching.
Following my visit, my next step is to keep communication open with the curators I met on my trip and collaborate on some further research. I am researching dates that the collectors of the Haslemere collection may have been in Sweden, and Ulla-Karin from the Nordiska Museet has access to the diaries of Artur Hazelius, founder of Skansen and the Nordiska Museet, so she will check if they ever met or corresponded. If we can prove a link between the two collectors then this will be a very significant discovery. Ulla-Karin is also going to look at further images of our Swedish paintings as she thinks the artist we have recorded for them maybe incorrect. If she can identify the correct artist of the paintings then this could provide a wealth of new information about them. Any new information that comes to light will inform a re-display of the collection which is planned when funding is available.
We are also applying for Designation from Arts Council England this year for the Peasant Art collection so my next step is to include any new information about the significance of the collection in this application. If we are successful in achieving designation, this could open up a lot of opportunities for the future development of the collection and the museum.
“On behalf of Haslemere Museum, I wish to thank the WIRP for the International Travel Grant that has enabled our Collections Manager to visit Sweden in order to undertake important research on our unique European Peasant Art Collection. This has been the first international research trip that the museum has ever undertaken and it has facilitated a step-change in our collections development. It will herald new and exciting ventures for the museum as we move forward and we are very grateful for this opportunity” Julia Tanner, Curator.