The county museum of Varmland is situated near the border to Norway. Vauml;rmland is a landscape known for its literature with authors such as Selma Lagerlouml;f, and natural heritage with great forests, the third largest lake in Europe, Vauml;nern and the river Klarauml;lven wich begins in Norway and cuts straight through the county from north to the south. This landscape, with water, big forests and hills/mountains is also known for its melancholy and distant blue mountains. This has inspired Swedish artist to do paintings where the landscape is the focal point. It is in this cultural landscape that the county museum of Vauml;rmland exists and works.
The county museum started in 1839 with a small collection of stone artefacts. At that time there was no regular museum building and to organize the museum an association called Vauml;rmlands fornminnesfouml;rening was started. After some 90 years, in 1929, a new museum building, created by the Swedish architect Cyrillus Johansson, finally opened its doors. (picture 1) For a long time the museum work was done by the head of the museum, an attendant and with the help of a sectretary. But in the 1960s and the 70s more people were employed and the workload as well as the range of activities expanded. Now the museum worked with specialists in archaeology, building preservation, art and others. The work with children and schools was also developed. At this time changes were made in the field of cultural heritage. The so called lauml;nsstyrelsen was developed and was given the task of acting as the public authority on cultural heritage. The museums became advisors and thereafter executioners of Lauml;nsstyrelsen's decisions. By the end of the 1970s the county museum of Vauml;rmland was a model for its work with regional industrial heritage with a curator of industrial heritage and an association of municipalities, local associations and the museum working as partners. The museum expanded its work in all parts of Vauml;rmland. During the 1990s plans began on a new building. The museum built in 1929 was too small and was built mostly as an art museum. After some work amongst politicians and others a decision was taken and money was raised. In 1997 a new museum building stood right beside the old one and along with new exhibitions the new museum opened in 1998. (picture 2) At this time the staff consisted of about 70 people and together with the main museum in Karlstad there were also seven branch museums around the county. The system with branch museums in the county is referred to as the ekerhjulsprincip, or spoke wheel principle.
Today the museum consists of five branch museums and the main museum in Karlstad. The museum in Karlstad is, as mentioned above, comprised of two buildings. Today the old building from 1929 contains our art department and art exhibitions, where we exhibit contemporary art and special exhibitions such as our summer 2006 exhibition "The design prince" Sigvard Bernadotte. The building itself is also heritage listed. Then we have the new building from 1997 with exhibitions about history, Vauml;rmland's culture, special exhibitions as well as the museum archive and offices for our other departments. The Branch Museums exhibit different aspects of Vauml;rmland's cultural heritage such as the Finnish immigration to Sweden (picture 3), the mining history in eastern Varmland, building history and preservation advice, the history of the floating of timber on Klarauml;lven (picture 4) and a 16th Century mansion featuring among other things a toilette with amazing paintings (picture 5). Vauml;rmlands Museum was visited by nearly 270 000 visitors in 2005. That makes Vauml;rmlands Museum the third most visited county museum in Sweden.
The staff now numbers about 60 people with a wide range of expertise. The museum is a foundation and has three responsible authorities. These are: Region Vauml;rmland - which consists of the 16 municipalities in Vauml;rmland as well as landstinget. Karlstad kommun - the municipality of Karlstad and finally Vauml;rmlands Museifouml;rening (the association that started the museum). Vauml;rmlands Museum, as all county museums, also gets grants from the government through The Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs.
The Swedish Museum Association have for some time selected the museum of the year in Sweden. They stated that Vauml;rmlands Museum was selected as the museum of the year because the museum has worked:
"To increase the professional competence among the young staff Vauml;rmland's Museum has in a responsible way started, in the museum world, a new and inspiring mentor project. The museum has, that is both right in time and with relevance for the inhabitants in Vauml;rmland, worked strategically and succesfully to reach out for an audiance that is not used to museums!"
So what exactly have we done? We have worked with a mentor project that has given the young staff the possibility to see and learn from other museums. For example they got the opportunity to visit museums in London. They have also got a mentor who works with them and they have spent a week working at some other museum or other institution to see and learn from other institutions. All of this has created new knowledge and insights in how work is done in other countries and museums. This has spawned new ideas that the rest of the staff is now involved with.
At the county museum of Vauml;rmland we have also worked hard to reach new groups of visitors. One of the goals for the museum is to reach all the inhabitants of Vauml;rmland, and to create environments that visitors feel part of and attracted to. Therefore we have worked with, in particular, the LO organisation - a union which organizes people, mostly of the working class, that normally don't visit the museum. We made an agreement that gives the members in the union free access to the museum for two people and for two years. In the agreement they are also given access to museums outside Vauml;rmland's Museum. We have also created special events like special family days. This have given a mixed result. Some of those who got free access visited the museums more regularly; some have yet to do so.
There is still a lot of work to be done, especially on the last part regarding visitor visitation and revisitation. Vauml;rmland's Museum's intent is to be a museum where everyone feels welcome, where they can be part of creating new culture and to feel that there is something that catches their interests. Therefore we work hard to have a wide selection of exhibitions and activities that can attract a wide range of visitors. We have visitors from the age of 0 to a hundred and that is how we want it.
And by the way - there is no new museum of the year 2006 - yet - and so we still feel like the museum of the year in Sweden. And try to work even harder!
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