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Until today, museums have primarily directed their attention to buildings, artefacts, individuals and society. Some museums are authentic historic farms and hamlets while others comprise various buildings gathered from a wider area and placed together in constructed hamlets. The «Norwegian Farm» project has an holistic approach and focuses on the structure of the cultural landscape and the utilisation of resources at six museum farms. In other words, we look at land use and farming practices at different points in time, principally during the period 1800–1950, with the intention of revealing similarity and uniqueness. The museums that are engaged in the project are located in the counties of Finnmark, Sogn and Fjordane, Hordaland, Rogaland and Oppland. The purpose of the project is to stimulate interest in exploring the use of natural resources in the particular region with a focus on the content of and the visual and ecological expression exhibited by the cultural landscape through time. This allows the individual museum farm to be seen in larger regional and national contexts. The results from the project will be used in educational and research projects at the museums. Arts Council Norway has financed the project.
In 1826, the last part of Norway’s border with another state was fixed when a joint Russian-Norwegian district was divided between the two states. Thereafter, Norway was to assert its sovereignty in the border area against a powerful Russia. At the same time, an increasing number of Finnish immigrants began to establish themselves as farmers in the same border area. The Norwegian state decided that it was therefore necessary to mark their presence in the area. This could be achieved by creating workplaces, for instance by facilitating farming. The first of many settlement projects in modern times was begun. Bjørklund farm in the Pasvik valley was established as a result of this policy. The farm existed for 100 years, through three generations. The farm displays, in large part, the major line of development in Norwegian farming, particularly in Finnmark over the 100 years from 1869 till 1969. Today, Bjørklund farm is part of the Varanger museum. The old houses were spared from burning by the Germans in 1944. Part of the cultivated area has lain fallow for many years, but shows nonetheless clear traces of farm use and history in the borderland between states.
The Tuomainen farm, a Kven town-farm in Vadsø
The Tuomainen farm in Vadsø is an urban farm from the middle of the 19th century. A combination of different occupations has made an impression on the built environment and the economic basis of the farm. Income from fisheries has always been important. Of particular interest is the farms function as rented accommodation for Kven immigrants. There have also been a public sauna and bakery on the farm, and animal husbandry and arable farming in differing periods. The animals included horses, cattle and sheep. Since the town site was very limited and included only the buildings, the agricultural land was outside the town; potato plots at the edge of town and meadows eight kilometres away. The farm building was originally a connected habitation and cattle shed; The Varanger house, with a characteristic appearance. The farm has had different owners over time, which has affected the buildings through changes of use and redevelopment.
Eidet lies at the inner end of Eidsfjord in Sogndal municipality in the county of Sogn and Fjordane. Today, it is owned by the Heibergske Collection – Sogn Folk Museum. The smallholding has a favourable climate in a sheltered south-facing locality, supporting luxuriant vegetation including occurrences of hardwood trees, and fertile soil that has given good harvests. The place has been an important junction for travellers, encouraging inn-keeping and trading. These conditions have supported habitation over a long period of time, but the farm was first given an autonomous status in 1903. Ownership, occupancy and land use before that time, are complicated. The place has been a smallholding, a croft and an inn. Farming has always provided too little to live on alone, making it necessary to have other sources of income. Multiple occupations were characteristic. The type and extent of, and the income from such occupations have varied. The two last occupants were boat-builders. Otherwise occupants have engaged in handicrafts, trade, fishing and forestry.
Havrå is a west Norwegian farm settlement with a 4000 year history. The hamlet and the patterns of strip farming still exist. Modern equipment has never been used. Occupants of the 8 to 9 individual farm holdings have in sum utilised 290 decares of steep-sloped infield and ca 1800 decares of outlying land. Most of the forage was obtained from the infield meadows and outlying pastures, but bark shavings were much used. The outlying land had lost some of its usefulness by 1945, but shavings were still taken from pollarded trees in the infield and the closer outfield.
Semensjorda was the holding that was longest in use. Johannes and Ingrid Torp were alone in their generation to continue farming. Traditional ways of farming, with hand-mowing, hay-drying racks and traditional farming techniques were in use until farming ceased in 1949. In the last year of farming, only the land closest to the farm was used. Outfields and rough grazing and outlying strips of wood for burning and timber had lost their significance while more and more of the land was given over to woodland and cultivated forest. Today, some of the land is farmed again, and Semensjorda and Havrå have retained a structure and features of cultivation landscape that have a high degree of authenticity as judged by both national and international measures. To visualise the changes, data technology can be used to construct detailed maps and area accounts for different years and production localities.
The farm museum «Audamotland» lies in Hå municipality in Jæren, specifically Low-Jæren which is the largest lowland plain in Norway. The last occupants left the farm at the end of the 1940s. The land was rented out and the buildings left to decay until the museum took over in 1994.
In 1865, corn, primarily oats, was grown for sale. Corn was still grown a hundred years later, but it was husbandry that provided an income. The arable acreage had been more than doubled, new varieties of grass were sown and the use of fertilisers had been revolutionised. Fruit and berries were also cultivated. The stony ground was cleared and the stones used to build stone dykes enclosing larger or smaller parcels. These changes characterise the landscape.
The outfield resources were coastal heather heaths and peat bogs. Mowing of the heaths ceased during the inter-war period, but grazing remained important. Peat-cutting was common throughout the life of the farm, for soil improvement and, principally, fuel. These activities also marked the landscape.
At Audamotland the changes that have marked Jæren between 1850 and 1950 can be clearly seen. This authentic museum farm is of high value for teaching, activities, guided tours and professional seminars.
According to the land register of 1669, Stenberg was crown land. The property was devolved upon the bailiff’s farm, Lae, in Toten. There is an ancient field on the property, and, in connection with it, a deserted field marked by piles of cleared stones. These indicate that farming here predates the Black Death.
Stenberg was sold by the crown in 1669. In 1731, it was bought by county judge Christian Sommerfeldt from Sukkestad. Subsequent interest in Stenberg was probably related to its resources of pasture. Its central location can also have contributed to the choice of the county governor, Fredrik Sommerfeldt, to develop the property as his residence and farm. The article focuses on the development of Stenberg as the private farm of a state official, a rather atypical Toten farm. Emphasis is placed on the hundred years during which county judge, county governor and Member of Parliament, Lauritz Weidemann and his family were owners. A line is drawn from the Middle Ages, through the 18th and 19th centuries to the making of the preservation order on the farm in 1923 and the preconditions for an authentic museum farm from 1934. The design of the farm courtyard and the park are a mirror of the county official’s social aspirations. The combined cattle shed and barn from 1836 and the use of the farm as an official residence are also affected by changes in Norwegian land use, a process which began in Toten in the 17th century based on commercial corn cultivation. The later period of major change in land use around 1850 is also reflected. Stenberg is not a large farm, but in common with most farms in Norway it gave room to cottars. Sommerfeldt drew up Toten’s first known cottar contract in 1747.
Land consolidation was never implemented at Havrå farm, southern Osterøy, Hordaland. Due to steep topography, there were no benefits to be gained by re-organizing the ownership of the fields, the settlement pattern or land use strategies. Today, the original pattern of ancient building clusters, field structures and complex ownership to the land is better preserved at Havrå than at any other multi-owned farm in Norway. The entire farm was protected in 1998 as the first «area of special cultural environment» by the Ministry of Environment.
The gap between available resources and the objectives of this kind of protection is challenging. In addition to the buildings, the farm structure and the different types of human influenced plant ecology, it is also highly important to maintain the immaterial cultural heritage related to the tacit knowledge about how to run such a farm. This has developed as innumerable generations have adapted to local resources. Today, no-one lives off the farm which is now a part of the «Museum of Hordaland». The museum has a remit to preserve the heritage of the farm, but museal methods have not yet been developed to include living animals and cultural landscapes as parts of their collections.
The museum farms in the «Norwegian Farm» project are very dissimilar. Their situation in different parts of the country brings with it considerable variation as regards land use and building stiles. The farms were primarily run as family concerns, keeping domestic animals and gathering fodder. A common feature is that the farm and agricultural activity were never sufficient to feed the family, and that additional income and/or work outside the farm were necessary. Most of the farms have been too small and difficult to run to allow for modern practice and for investment to be profitable. The farms therefore became, to a large extent, «frozen» in time. Thus, they document living conditions, farm practices and related cultural environments and landscapes that have otherwise vanished. In addition to learning about the agricultural practices of earlier times, the museum farms are important for studying ecological processes that are related to earlier forms of farming. This knowledge is decisive for the preservation of vulnerable and threatened species in today’s cultural landscape. The museum farms can be a source of research in various fields, they are central in the dissemination of knowledge and they have high value as an experience.