We already parked at the Norwegian Folklore Museum on the museum island in Oslo last night, to be able to start our second day museum marathon as early as possible. Unfortunately the museum doesn’t open until 10am so we feel a little rushed as we have planned up to 4 museums for today.
I didn’t really know what to expect before entering the museum. I thought we might see some traditional Norwegian clothes and furniture but just like yesterday my expectations are being exceeded by far! Not just the content but the sheer size of it! You can easily spend all day here, it is more like a museums village!
We randomly start at the children’s section. Various toys are displayed here cutting right through Norwegian history. I personally remember most of these toys myself, as I grew up in Germany, not far from Norway.
The next section is an exhibition showing some features of daily life in Sami communities with emphasis on hunting, fishing and farming, as well as reindeer pastoralism.
Some facts about the Sami:
The Sami live in four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
The state of Norway was founded on the territory of two peoples: The Norwegian and the Sami.
There may be around 70.000 Sami, about 40.000 live in Norway.
Sami languages belong to the Ural-Altaic family of languages, like Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian, whereas Norwegian belongs to the Indo-European languages like English, German and Russian.
Norway has recognised the Sami as an indigenous people. The Sami had come to Norway long after the ancestors of the Norwegians.
The answer to the question of where the Sami come from, can only be speculated. Sami identity has probably evolved gradually over a long time span in the areas where the Sami have lived in historical times. The Finno-Ugric language heritage certainly suggests that they had slowly migrated from the east or south-east.
A large costume collection reflects the diversity of Sami culture. While the exhibition doesn’t attempt to tell the history of the Sami, some important historical events have been included, such as the carving up of the Samiland between the states or the devastation of the Second World War. A new part made in 2007 also describes recent development in politics, culture and society.
Before radios came into common use, many Sami children hardly knew a word of Norwegian when they started school. In the schools only Norwegian language was to be used. Many Sami children spent years before they could understand what the teacher said. From the 1950s Sami language was gradually introduced in some schools. Lack of textbooks and skilled teachers remained a hindrance for the use of Sami language in schools.
Originally hunting and gathering was the way of living for the Sami people. They moved in a yearly cycle between various dwelling-sites according to what resources were available in the different seasons.
In spring they would fish for cod in the fjord, gather eggs and down of seabirds.
In summer they fished for salmon in the river, gathered berries and cut shoe-grass.
In autumn they hunted wild reindeer and fowl and fished in rivers and lakes.
In winter they trapped fur animals and grouse, and went ice fishing on frozen lakes.
Until the second World War they lived in turf and wooden huts or in tents. Annual markets were important events to sell hides and furs, meat and fish for money or in exchange for goods such as flour, sugar, salt, cloth and utensils. Market days were also occasions to meet friends and to exchange news.
Events from outside changed life of the East Sami. In 1826 their land was divided between Norway and Russia, which then included Finland. The Neiden Sami became Norwegian citizens but their autumn and winter sites had become Finnish territory. Norwegian and Finnish colonists moved in and the population grew. The Sami became a small and almost invisible minority.
Further east too, things went bad for the Sami. In the Soviet Union they were forced to move from their old areas. During the wars between Finland and the Soviet Union 1939-1944, the core areas of the East Sami became a battleground and Finland had to cede them to the Soviet Union. The Sami had to flee. An ancient way of living came to an end.
Today the Sami are torn between two worlds. Many have moved to the bigger cities and some have consciously put their Sami history behind them, as they have painful memories of the times when Sami identity was looked down upon and ridiculed. There are several thousand Sami living in Oslo today but only few choose Sami education for their children. Others still show their Sami background by wearing traditional Sami costumes on feast days and there is also a Sami house in Oslo (Akersgata 34) where Sami and those who are interested in Sami culture can drop by for a cup coffee and a chat on Saturdays.
We continue on to the outside area of the museum. Here you can try and catch a wooden reindeer with a lasso and have a look at Sami huts and tents.
Now we realise that the museum has built a whole village with replicas of houses, sheds, gardens and farms including animals such as horses, pigs, cows, sheep and chicken. The village is sectioned into Norwegian areas such as the Telemark, Ostland or the Hallingdal valley and cover a time span between the 16th and 20th century.
Inside the old wooden houses there is no electricity and the small windows only let little light inside.
The more modern farm houses and shops in the Ostland had electricity. The first lightbulb in Norway was lit in Fredrikstad, Ostfold in 1897.
The Stave Church in the museum village was originally built in Gol in 1200 and relocated here in 1884:
In the next part of the museum, we take a journey through the rooms of the 19th century upper class Norwegian family:
The museum also shows a collection of Norwegian folk art up to the middle of the 1800s, when the tradition was strong and vibrant.
It was in around 1870, when the decorated articles farmers used in their everyday lives, began to be identified as “art”. The exuberant decoration – colourful rosemaling, robust wood carving and richly detailed woven textiles – was given the name “folk art”. This was a new concept along with folk poetry and folk music and was useful in building a cultural identity for the new nation.
The exhibition also displays work from the period of 1850 to 1920, which in many ways represented a break in tradition and reflects trends that are still apparent today.
In the last part of the exhibition we get to see a photo collection of some Norwegian traditional folklore costumes:
After three hours in the Norwegian Folklore Museum, we rush to the next museum, only to realise days after, that we still have missed parts of the museum. As I already mentioned, you can easily spend a whole day here, exploring most, if not all, aspects of Norwegian life since 1500.
Without the Oslo Pass, this museum is 100NOK.