This post will be the last in a trilogy from when we took my father in-law and his wife around in Norway while they where visiting from the US to celebrate my wife’s birthday. Scroll down to see the two other ones!
On our last day in Lillhammer we went to Maihagen museum to see an exhibit on Norway’s development from the ice age on. The exhibition is called “We won the land” in English. I like the Norwegian exhibition label directly translated better; “Slowly the land became our own”.
The exhibition is a journey through 10,000 years of Norwegian history. It is not a history of kings and great battles, but of the everyday life of the Norwegian people. We meet them in the dioramas – the woman of the Stone Age, the Viking age boat-builder, the home struck down by the Black Death, the woman who has to emigrate to America and a despairing man on the dole in the interwar years. Let me show you an example from a painting:
We can contemplate the people, their homes and their workplaces. In our imagination we are with them and learn their stories. Let me give you some examples:
To the left you see a Norwegian horse called ‘Fjording’ with a plough struggling to cultivate new land.
To the right you see a logger. Forestry work was hard and labour-intensive. Many of them were tenant farmers. They rented farms and worked off part of the rent in the forest. Logs where hauled by horses to rivers and watercourses and floated downriver to the sawmills.
I mentioned emigration to the US earlier so let me give you an example:
Many went to America in the 1800 in search of a better life. The harvest was poor and also a lack of fish in the North Sea which led to great famine. By the First World War, 775.000 Norwegians out of a population of just over 2 mil had immigrated to the USA, settling for the most part in the Midwest states. Only Ireland sent a higher percentage of it’s population to America.
The encounter with these contrasts ends with the modern person of the Norwegian welfare state – the package tourist and the old-age retiree, the problems of affluence and the environment. Let me end with a couple of more examples:
To the left you see one ready for a holiday with the “Beetle”. In post-war Norway former luxuries become part of everyday life. After the automobile rationing was lifted in 1961 the car quickly became common property, changing living habits both before and after work.
To the right: the school dentist, every child’s nightmare, was part of many national health care services build up after the Second World War. Regular examinations and better treatment, together with public campaigns, to improve nutrition and dental hygiene, led to a strong improvement in dental health.
Next stage was the oil age from the beginning of 1970s which has given the Norwegian a fortune for generations. That’s another and a new story though – you can’t expect to get every detail from a 10 000 year history in one post!