Saturday, December 9, 2017

Nordiska Museet (The Nordic Museum)
Resource Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The Nordic Museum is a cultural icon in Sweden. In 1891 the foundation stones were laid for the Nordic Museum main building. Seventeen years later in June of 1907, the building was opened to the public.

The entrance to the Nordic Museum.

However the beginning of the institution was older that the building itself. It was founded in 1873 by Artur Hazelius (1833-1901) in premises at Drottninggatan 71 in central Stockholm. As the collection rapidly expanded, Hazelius started planning and constructing a suitable space.

Artur Hazelius by Johan Axel Wetterlund (1858-1927) - Nordiska Museet (Stockholm, Sweden).

Society was rapidly changing during the embryonic period of development of the museum. Sweden had witnessed the French Revolution and had experienced the transition from an agrarian society via the industrial revolution into a mechanical society. This prompted Hazelius to collect and preserve objects that could tell the story of life and work in pre-industrial Sweden.

Simple home-woven dress with silk threads from the beginning of the 1820s - part of the Museum's collection.

Swedish and Danish medieval and renaissance castles served as an inspiration for architect Isak Gustaf Clason. This inspiration is more evident as the steeples and gables slowly emerge from the morning mist giving the building a fairy castle feel.

As the Museum emerges from morning mist you feel you are flung into a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of sorts.

Many skilled workers and craftsman were involved in the construction of the building. Here a number of carpenters are photographed with hand- and frame-saws. Folding yardsticks - a Swedish invention from the 1880s - peep out from the aprons.

Carpenters who worked on the building.
Photograph courtesy of J. Grape.

Mortar carriers who worked on the building. They were often women and children who carried the mortar in buckets on top of their heads.
Photograph courtesy of N. Arkiv.

The entrance of the Museum is composed of solid oak gates. They are framed by pillars decorated with carved flowers, mountain ash and hazel branches on the bottom section. The female figure sits above the gate. She is a symbol for the museum, but perhaps also represents "Mother Svea". The small squirrels symbolise the Museum's employees, who just like squirrels are avid collectors.

The entrance into the Museum.

A wide array of richly detailed stonework can be found in the structure.

Some of the detailed stonework on the outside of the building.

The Hall for festivities and exhibitions is 24 meters from floor to the ceiling and is 126.5 meters from one side to the other. The hall was originally intended for banquets and is one of the largest chambers in Sweden.

The entrance hall.

In the middle of the hall a statue of King Gustav sits on his throne. This majestic statue is nearly six meters tall and was sculptured from carved oak by sculptor Carl Milles.

Statue of King Gustave.

The Nordic Museum is home to over one and a half million exhibits, including exclusive items and everyday objects, all with their own unique history. The collections, which are managed by the Nordic Museum foundation, reflect life in Sweden from the 16th century to the present day. The Nordic Museum archives contain documents from societies, companies and private individuals, as well as letters, diaries, memoirs and other accounts and anecdotes – covering more than 4,500 meters of shelf space in all.

The museum’s image collections comprise approximately six million photographs, while the library holds more than 250,000 books and journals, as well as brochures, maps and product catalogues. Only a fraction of the collections is displayed in the exhibitions, but many items can be accessed by other means. New media and expert staff are helping to open up the museum for the visitors of today. Four key areas feature prominently: clothing and fashion, home and living, customs and practices and the cultivation of natural resources.


There are far too many exhibits to give you a feel for what the Museum has to offer. However, below is just a teaser of an up and coming exhibition.

Teaser: New Exhibition about the 1950s - Women and Fashion

The caption reads: "Nylon stockings, corsets, slim waists and flippable skirts, but also elegant gloves, hat, big pearl earrings, jeans and checkered shirt. Autumn's new fashion show is a fusion in the feminine fifties fashion and an imaginative insight into the current social ideals."

The fashion show displays both complete outfits and a range of time-consuming accessories.

The model wears a dress with a skirt with one or more petticoats underneath. The white long gloves were a common accessory during the 1950s and matched the elegant evening dress.
The picture was taken for NK in Stockholm. The entire NK image archive is in the Nordic Museum collection.

If you opened a Swedish female wardrobe or draws in the 1950s you might find any of these items below.

Full body corset. Underwear was a very important fashion accessory in the 1950s. Underwear could shape your body so that you appeared to have a narrow waist, wide hips and crowded bust - which was all the rage in the 1950s.

The green evening dress was made by Märthaskolan women's clothing and was styled after the original dress from the fashion house "Madelaine De Rauch" in Paris. It belonged to Eva Bonnier. The dress shows that exclusive French fashion (haute couture) was spread to the Nordic countries via large department stores such as NK in Stockholm and Stockmann in Helsinki.

The skirt was bought at NK store and cost 100 Swedish Kroner. It is designed by Ebba von Eckermann.

The fabric - Pensé - was designed by Viola Gråsten at NK's textile chamber in the 1950s and fashioned into a blouse.

The apron above was an important home accessory. This apron was manufactured in Denmark in the 1950s.

These gold leather scandals were worn by Karin Fagergren to Stockholm Enskilda Bank's 100th anniversary in 1956.

Don Gout handbag in dark red plastic, imitation leather.

Accessories featured strongly in the 1950s and so it was common for items such as shoes and a handbag to be made to match each other.

These gloves in oak yellow and light green pale leather are made in France.

Hat in white stiff nylon tulle, with low hill and downward curve.

No comments: