Sverresborg, Trøndelag Folkemuseum

Marita Hesjedal

drama teacher / director

Sverresborg, Trøndelag Folkemuseum

Riiser-Larsens vei 16 7020 Trondheim Norway

Dad, why are there only adults here, didn't children exist in the old days?

Sverresborg is a folk museum presenting cultural history and building traditions from Troslash;ndelag, in the middle of Norway. We are very happy to see that the distinction "Museum of the year 2005" was given to us as an institution, and not for a single project. In the jury's comment it is written:

"Troslash;ndelag Folkemuseum, Sverresborg is elected as "Museum of the year 2005". Strong focus towards children and youths, innovative co-operational work with other museums and a long lasting and enduring focus on quality, are the jury's basis for this award.
In the jury's basis it is said that Troslash;ndelag Folkemuseum in Trondheim has developed from a traditional open air museum to a modern museum with strong focus on participating in its contemporary time. The determined priority of exhibitions, roll play and arranged activities for children and youths are especially mentioned. The formal co-operation with the Swedish Museum in the region of Jauml;mtland (Jamtli in Oslash;stersund) is accentuated by the jury. This has given Sverresborg the opportunity to participate in three different Interrgeional projects under EU's subsidy arrangements. In addition to this Sverresborg has, with low budget, focused on conservation and preservation and research, and they lead the network for preservation and conservation. The jury honours Sverresborg for taking on the professional responsibility to establish "Norsk Doslash;vemuseum" the Norwegian/national museum for deaf and the museum's engagement in documentation of today's minority groups in Norway."

This presentation focuses on our work with children and youths using drama and theatre as method.
For many years children have been our main focus, both as a target group and in the history we convey. We find it important to convey children's history in Norway. We have 2000 artefacts from kindergartens - the only collection of this sort in Norway. We have also a large collection of artefacts dealing with school history. In 2001 we opened a permanent exhibition portraying the history of the Kindergarten.

In the middle of the 1980s' the museum started focusing on educational programs for children. New educational programs were made and new methods were used. Some years later we started to use drama as method and these programs became the most successful programs ever. Learning and experiencing about the old school and dramatising old traditional fairy tales were two of the programs developed.
At Sverresborg - as in most open air museums in Europe - adults conveying traditional handicraft have long been visible. One day we heard a girl asking her dad: "Dad, why are there only adults here, didn't children exist in the old days?" This key question made us realise that we had come to a point where the museum wanted and needed to make children and youths visible for our guests. We wanted to become a museum where children could learn through participation at the same time as we could use children together with adults conveying the history and make the museum more alive.

The first step towards this new way of conveying history took place in 2003 when we held courses in drama and theatre for children aged 8 to 12 years. The course ended with a performance, where the children led one of our dramatized tours for families. The positive reactions and experience showed us that the children learned about culture and history through drama and theatre. Therefore we decided to start permanent cultural and historical theatre groups. The groups are led by drama teachers. By using our historical houses and artefacts as sets and props the cultural history has an influence on every gathering. All together 60 children take part in our drama groups. During and after the course they are allowed to take part in the museums plays and tableaux and at the end of their course they make their own performance and show it for a large audience.

"Local neighbours, national enemies" is the name of an educational program focusing on the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden. In this program the goal is to get the pupils to understand, recall and empathize with people who's lives were or are in danger of war and to identify themselves in the context of their history. By using the storyline method, the pupils learn through play, participation and connection.

This program is a mix of work at the school and a 4 hours visit in a hands-on farm at the museum. The pupils take part in daily-life activities as washing and harvesting and during the work they are interrupted by actors asking questions and setting focus on special sides of the story. The pupils and teachers are dressed in costumes from 1905 and leave everything reminding them about 2005 behind.

Our experience also shows that adults react positively to drama and theatre as method. In 2005 we developed a play focusing on the same theme as the above mentioned program, where the audience interacted with the play by letting them decide how the play should develop. This play was one of Sverresborg's and Jamtli's shared projects. Through theatre we were able to put focus on a special part of the Norwegian history and get our guests to engage and care about the history, and hopefully also understand more about some of the conflicts in the world to day. In this play children from our drama groups took part together with semiprofessional and professional actors.

Using drama and theatre as method and involving children in the history conveyed makes the museum more lively and gives our guests a stronger contact with what they experience when visiting. Maybe most important of all it has expanded the group of people feeling a strong ownership to Sverresborg.


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