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Virserum’s furniture industry museum

Sound recording of the belt driven workshop at Virserum’s furniture industry museum

At Virserums möbelindustrimuseum (Virserum’s furniture industry museum) we meet the process. We can see how furniture has been produced, the wood sawn, details carved, and how it has been put together to a finished piece of furniture. It is a history of work, but also of craftsmanship and technical development. The oldest machine in the museum is a foot driven frame saw from the 18th century which could be used for sawing curved lines.

The largest part of the museum is the workshop, driven by a water wheel which is kept in motion by the Virserum river. The forces of nature were a prerequisite for production. The workshop is driven by belts running across the ceiling. We can’t just see the furniture, but also hear the humming of the belts, the clatter of the machines and feel their vibrations. We get to experience what it was like to work in this noisy environment. On a post we find out that ear protection was unusual and that a hand or finger easily “got in the way of a blade, steel or cutters”.

We also get to know the skillful hands that created the handsome oak furniture. We meet the tools that carved their many details. To begin with, this was a task performed by the farmers in the area. They could increase their income by carving furniture details for the industry. This is why craft history in this case is not curtailed by industry. On the upper floor in the exhibition, we find a piece of elm furniture made by the farmer and carpenter Jonas Magnus Jonsson in Rödamossa. We are told that this piece is “a typical example of the amazing knowledge in the area which in many cases led to industries being started”. We also find an elaborate bed canopy which the wood sculptor Theodor Karlsson made for himself.

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Uppvidinge beekeeping museum

In Uppvidinge we learn about beekeepers, beekeeping and bees – as well as surprising design history about a beehive that aims to satisfy the needs of the bees rather than those of the beekeeper. We talk to Peter Englén, president of Uppvidinge beekeeping society and the person behind the museum.

Can you tell us a bit more about Uppvidinge biodlarmuseum (Uppvidinge beekeeping museum)?
The museum tells the history of beekeeping since the 16th century, from Gustav Vasa to Samuel von Linné [brother of Carl] and Alexander Lundgren. I was fascinated by a German beekeeping museum and thought “If they can do it, so can we!”. And that’s the beginning of Sweden’s perhaps only museum dedicated to beekeeping, where it doesn’t just get a corner of a room. One of the society members had a building that could house the museum, we applied for funding and started to build it. The museum opened its doors in the summer of 2009 and so far we haven’t tired of it.

Would you tell us about Alexander Lundgren and the Svea hive?
Alexander Lundgren was a pioneer of modern beekeeping. In the 1920s he studied bees and developed everything from tools such as the honey extractor or queen catcher, to how to handle diseases and how beehives should be designed. Before this, beehives were mainly made of straw and based on the needs of the hive. Alexander Lundgren concluded that the hives should be designed according to the needs of the queen, how the queen best lays her eggs and what temperature the hive should have. He developed a hive, specifically for the Swedish climate, which he called the Svea hive. But he was ahead of his time, his ideas were considered nonsense and were not particularly well received to begin with.

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Lessebo Hand Paper Mill

In an active industrial environment, we get to learn about hand paper making and local as well as national industrial history through a collection of watermark molds. We meet Christina Gutiérrez Malmbom, CEO of Bildningsverket who through Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan runs Lessebo handpappersbruk (Lessebo Hand Paper Mill) – Sweden’s only commercial hand paper mill.

Can you tell us about Lessebo Hand Paper Mill?
During the 17th century, the same time as the founding of the naval town of Karlskrona, an ironworks opened in Lessebo. A naval town needs cannons, cannon balls and weapons, but also cartridge paper, which helps to control gunpowder explosions. Making cartridge paper turned out to be more profitable than cast iron goods and that is where the story begins for what is now Lessebo Hand Paper Mill.

The last time we were here you highlighted the collection of watermark molds. Would you tell us a bit more about them?
When making paper you use molds. These consist of a wooden frame with a cover and a taut mesh onto which a watermark in filigree is embroidered. The watermark makes a recess in the paper which can be seen when you hold it up against the light. The reasons for including a watermark may vary. A watermark can reveal who the paper maker is, or which mill the paper is from. They are also used to make forgeries more difficult, for example in bank notes or passports. Having your own paper with your family crest or company logo has long been a status symbol. In our collection we have around 200 molds and behind them are some very exciting stories representing our industrial history.

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(Re-)learning the Archive

is a three-year long development project run by Designarkivet in Pukeberg with support from the Swedish Arts Council and Region Kalmar län (Kalmar County Council).

Christina Zetterlund
Project Manager

Maija Zetterlund
Project Coordinator

In collaboration with

Virserums konsthall
Linnaeus University
Kalmar Konstmuseum

Designer in residence:
Evelina Mohei
Design and webb:
Mika Kastner Johnson

With support from 

Region kalmar läns logotyp
Kulturrådets logotyp