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The High Hill Museum of Funasdalen
A Place to Remember
by
Monica Gronlund - Click to Enlarge
Monica Gronlund

At the foot of the dark and somewhat frightening mountain, Funasdalsberget, a man was born in 1843. The man, Erik Fundin, had a dream to build a museum, so he started to collect all that seemed valuable at the time. Today, at the very same spot, a new great museum has been built, which people from all over the world come to visit.

"Many of them arrive in busses arranged by various tourist companies, and we serve them as we know best how", explains Tage Persson, director and one of the dedicated persons who have founded the new museum. "We opened this new museum in may 1999 and the number of visitors have come up to more than our highest expectations. During this first year we treated more than 125 000 visitors. That is 1500 visitors per day."

And it really looks impressing. Already from the outside you get visions as to have traveled not only to one of the coldest parts of north Sweden, but also far back to another dimension of time. As you stand there and watch the impressive mountains, the sparkling snow and feel the freezing cold air (which in itself demands perhaps wolves' fur coats and head clothings) you cannot avoid thinking that you perhaps have landed on another planet. It is for sure that the ancient traditions and culture of Herjedalen is what the creators have had in mind, when making the museum look as all houses did in this area several centuries back. The stretched out segmented building, not rising higher than visitors' eyes can reach, with its cobbled stone ground, and the roof covered with pieces of turf, looks much like in the 15th or 16th century. The front doors are of massive wood, created by a local
artist, Thord Vaktnes. Furthermore, lots of other special details inside the museum are hand made by artists living in the community.

Inside the building, at the entrance hall the tourist information bureau have a desk and sell books and other information on Funasdalen and its mountainous surroundings and of course on the museum. To the left are coat rooms and to the the right there is a charming cafe where Tage Persson himself lights a warming fire in the open stove. He also tells us a little about the founder, Erik Fundin and that he was actually born on the same spot as the cafe. Along the stairs up to the exhibitions there are two kinds of handrails - one for adults and one lower for kids.

The founder Erik Fundin himself is sitting as a realistic doll at the entrance of the exhibitions as if to greet every visitor on his or her
voyage back in time. For children there is a special adventure entrance in which they can climb - more like a tunnel, rising upwards - and in a mountainlike dark cage you can hear different sounds, and see wonderful things as if split into the stonewall. Listening to the tempting sounds from the old days, you can actually believe you are there when your mother and grandmother walk the cows to the summer fields.

In the exhibition sections there are rooms, or sometimes parts of rooms, where special music or calling sounds start to play as you enter. Controlled heat sensors put those to work.

For the children there is an indoor mountain pasture, stables and a chalet are built up exactly as it used to be. A very realistic surrounding with the great Funäsdal mountain is painted on the wall by the Funäsdalen artist Bengt Ellis - a giant window is covering the roof so that visitors can watch, through the glass, the real physical mountain, outdoors, continue from the painted picture. Here the children can play with all the tools that used to be available in the chalet and also they can play with several
wooden cows and a goat, illusively carved out by another local artist, Johnny Springe. They can also go fishing on the glassed lake, built into the floor. In the lake there is a glassed tube reaching down to the floor below. In the lake tube there are fishes - small copies of grayling - which is a local fish, that they can catch.

The wellknown sculptor Emil Nasvall of Funäsdalen is also honored with a special department holding a rich selection of his works.
Visiting all the exhibitions and looking into all the old houses in the outdoor museum park takes at least three or four hours, if you want to see it all.

"We plan to build an adventure visiting area here in the ancient monument park as well", Tage Persson explains. "Tourists shall be able to spend a couple of adventure nights here during summertime. One night they can sleep in any of the 21 the bunkers that are restored from the second world war, another night they can spend in a lapplander's tent or in a chalet in a mountain pasture that we also will create in the park."

The word "dal" in Funasdalen means valley and in the valley below the huge mountain the village is located. In the same way chalets and small villages have always been formed here.

"It is our intention that we will have a functioning chalet with people working with old tools making Swedish "messmor" and goat cheese and thin bread and all the food that belong to the chalets of west Härjedalen", he adds.

Some parts in the museum, as it is formed, remind of course of more ordinary museums. There are rooms where the light is specially weak to prevent old clothes from being decomposed or destroyed in other ways. The dark lightening might frighten very small children who are not used to this - but this also gives a glimpse of the fact that in the old days people did not have electric lights. After dark, they had to work in the light of a candle or a gasoline lamp as a most.

Many of the old clothes and other items are behind glass and inside special compressed air which make all dust and other destroying particles blow out, so that no eggs will be laid and no lice will eat especially the woollen materials. In some of the exhibition cases there are also special temperatures, mostly plus four or plus 10 degrees Centigrade, as to preserve the objects better.

A lot of preparation is done, before a frock or a hat or perhaps a crown or a pair of bridal gloves etc are placed in an exhibition case. "First the objects have to be put in a freezer and kept deep frozen in 50 degrees Centigrade for at least a week. This is to kill eggs and small insects that eat materials. Wooden items are heated in a 30 degrees Centigrade warm gas which kills all insects, but if you had the possibility those objects could as well be frozen at the same temperature and during the same length of time as wool, cotton and linen clothes."

So if you just rush away, only passing the different exhibitions, you will perhaps not find all that is done to tempt your imagination. Everywhere there are things to touch - drawers to pull wooden objects to switch. Inside - or behind objects there might be new challenges for visitors to be astonished by. Inspiration to this kind of entertainment in exhibitioning, comes from leading teams at another great museum called Jamtli in Östersund more than 300 kilometers away. You can for instance try your strength to investigate if you are able to cope with tools used at daily work in the 19th century.

Special sound and dialect rooms are also available for those who would like to hear a story about old days told in an old dialect. In there you can choose among several different dialects from the community of Härjedalen. You sit in comfortable armchairs when listening and you watch the wonderful view at the lake and mountains and on the walls there are furs from wolves, a musk Ox and a large bear from Funasdalen.

In the assembly room visitors can watch beautiful slide pictures and listen to music and voices telling them about the history of Funasdalen. "We have three modern projectors, TV:s Videos and they are connected with ISDN-technique. As for security no one can enter this room until all emergency exits are unlocked."

When I left the museum - after a good five hours peak - I still felt that there were parts I didn't have time to see or investigate. "Many visitors return more than once, and if they do not live too far from here - they come back every week", Tage Persson says.

Facts about the High Hill Museum and its founder Erik Fundin

Founder Fundin
- a true pioneer

Erik Fundin was born in 1843 at the foot of the mountain Funäsdalsberget, which reaches 1277 meters above sea level. In 1893 Fundin started to collect objects - both ancient utilities and things still in use, obtaining anything that was of value or could possibly be of value further on. His purpose was to prevent the antiquities from being sold or given away to traveling traders. Erik Fundin himself was a merchant and he knew very well what kind of treasures that were kept in the houses. One year later, in 1894, he founded an association of relics of the past for the county of Härjedalen. One old building house was given by a local citizen and this became the first start towards an ancient monument park. Later several more houses were donated to the park and as it stands today it contains 20 houses, all intact with beds, stoves and tools from the 18th and 19th centuries. One of them, "bua", is regarded as the oldest house in Härjedalen. They all give visitors the true feeling of entering a past time, and that the owners of the houses are just out for the moment.

"This means that Sweden's first local museum was founded in Funäsdalen." Fundin's greatest efforts were to preserve all of value in Härjedalen. He often showed anger in the way that its mother province, Jämtland, treated all that was of Härjedalen. Freely translated it goes like this: "Östersund (seat of provincial government) remains silent about Härjedalen and gives prominence only to its beloved Jämtland and of all that are from Jämtland. It would be something like a special favor if they once should have the strength to print anything from Härjedalen. To hope that Stockholm Newspapers would print a single "letter to the editor" from the unknown Härjedalen is even less credible. Therefore it is not extraordinary that Härjedalen is 'terra incognito'."

Härjedalen is a community which hosts less than one person per square kilometer. It is covered by snow 220 days of the year. In Funäsdalen last year locals could note an outdoor temperature of minus 5 degrees Centigrade as late as the 22nd of July. Winter season is counted from the 20 October to 24 April.

Tage Persson - who also was a trader like Fundin - along with Anna Pojkas and other dedicated persons, planted the idea to build a great high hill museum. He succeeded in due time to get donations from several community departments and also from local citizens. He even managed to get funds from the European Union with no less than 11,4 million Swedish crowns. Altogether The association received 26, 5 million crowns plus taxes (about 32 million Swedish crowns, which makes about 3,8 million US $. The owner of the buildings and areas that belong to the museum today is the community of Härjedalen while the museum asociation of Funäsdalen hire all the space with a monthly rent payed to the community.

Of course nothing of this would have been possible to accomplish without a lot of dedicated persons who put their free time into this project. Tage Persson himself has now succeeded to get a monthly payment for a 50% part time job, but as he himself admits, he puts more than 120% of working time into the museum.

Altogether the museum owns 15 000 objects from stone age up to early twentieth century.

"However, we let other museums take care of objects from our time. We do not bother to show plastic items or other modern stuff, admits Tage Persson. All in all the museum has 15000 square meters used for exhibitions. 6000 square meters are used in the ancient monument park which today lies next to the museum building. All details inside the museum are made of birch or fur tree and no nails or screws are used - only wooden pegs. The museum walls are made of solid concrete, covered with wood on the outside. All constructing materials are donated by local firms - even the architect is from a nearby area.

"The various lengths on the panel wood on the outside and on the inside, are designed from the knowledge that this was how we used to build our houses. We took what we had, and all wooden pieces were made out the way they were cut, so that everything could be utilized, Tage Persson explains".

Happy Trails,

Monica Grönlund

#  #  #

You can Contact Monica at

Email:  monica.gronlund@telia.com  

Monica Grönlund is a Swedish freelance writer/photographer with ten years of experience in journalistic full time work on daily papers.  Monica takes mostly digital pictures and has found this kind of media easy to handle and flexible to work with.  Monica writes about all that is engaging and interesting, which covers everything from skiing in the snowy mountains to hot political news etc.  She lives in a poorly populated area (Härjedalen) where tourism is the biggest income source.

 

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