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The history of the Museum

Gunnar’s dream Topp

This story really begins with a new teacher’s arrival in the small village school of Solf. The year is 1936, and the newly-baked teacher’s name is Gunnar Rosenholm (1912-1999). He has a burning interest in old customs and traditions, and therefore asks his pupils to gather old things from their homes. Namely, Gunnar has a dream: to create a collection of these in his school – a museum.

”And so, so much more is still not done. I do not even dare to mention all that I dream of getting to Stundars”.

Gunnar Rosenholm, undated letter.

Some mornings, Mr Rosenholm arrives to school covered in dust and dirt. Then his curiosity and urge to collect had gotten the better of him, driving him out on explorations to the village’s attics and sheds. This wasn’t looked kindly upon by everyone, and he even got banned from some of the farms. But we all know the results of his collections – Stundars. And we bet many Solf-villagers of today are happy that it happened to be to Solf that the young, colourful, different, dedicated and stubborn Gunnar came.

“We can never get enough of wooden barrels and bedlinen.”

Gunnar Rosenholm in a letter, 1.4.1989

Gunnar didn’t only collect old things. He also collected old tales and stories about folklore and folk traditions in the region. These tales filled numerous diaries, and his documentation can nowadays be read in the archives of Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland. If his search for old stuff sometimes caused irritation, his visits and eager listening also caused surprise and poorly hidden pride in the older villagers. Imagine, that the teacher actually came to visit them! The understanding for ”life in the countryside” that Gunnar’s interviews created have been a great help in the building of Stundars open-air museum. An understanding Gunnar freely shared in a great number of newspaper articles and books.

Solf Museum Society Topp

Let’s return to the pupils collecting of old things. It went well. So well, in fact, that Mr Rosenholm gathered the villagers and presented the idea of founding The Solf Museum Society. The year was 1938, and the society grew rapidly. In a year, it already had 110 members, and the society started envisioning a small village museum of their own. How wonderful it would be to have a cottage where all the beautiful things could be displayed. But the war came, and people got other things to think about. But in 1947 the society could finally open their own little museum on Herrbacken. The first summer 220 curious visitors found their way there. What had the teacher and his ilk really gotten up to? A newspaper reporter wrote: “You actually feel happy in the museum!”, and happy was certainly how many felt when their dream came through.

But what happiness really lasts forever? The landlord at Herrbacken needed his place back, and the museum objects where once more moved to sheds and outhouses for storage. When the new school building was being built and the construction work included some blasting, a big piece of rock smashed into the building where some of the more delicate items had been placed. Now the museum enthusiasts were ready to give up altogether. But shame on he who gives up! Wasn’t there an empty old parish repository, right next to the church in the village? Once again, the old items Gunnar and his students had gathered were moved, and in 1958 the doors to the repository were opened for public. This was one of the very first museums in Ostrobothnia to receive municipal funding!

“And I believe that You will make it. It can be hard, but remember that the hardship is temporary, while the result is everlasting.”

Gunnar Rosenholm’s letter to Stundars first manager, Peter Båsk, dated 22.1.1992

The first museum building at Stundars Topp

Already in the late 1930’s, the Solf Museum Society had bought and moved an old granary, a shed for storing grain and flour in. They moved it to the Stundars hill, a stone’s throw from the repository. The granary stood there alone for three decades until it got company by the Millner’s Cottage and a windmill. Looking back, it is clear that the 1960’s were the era of dreams and visions in the history of Stundars. Rosenholm was joined by Olav Englund, a man with the talent to engage people in teamwork – and even in a friendly competition between the smaller villages in the Solf area. To more and more villagers, the idea of a real museum of their own grew more and more interesting. A museum became a common goal and a reason to be proud.

”Utterly aghast was I, when you implied that Stundars soon has enough stuff! Au contraire, au contraire, au contraire!”

Gunnar Rosenholm in a letter dated 3.9.1989

In an interview for the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet in 1969, Rosenholm expressed the communal vision with the words “We want to make Solf Local History Museum to something better than it is today… In the following stage of the development of the museum area, our focus will be on the crafts”. The dream was now to build an artisan´s village from the 19th century, with housing as well as workshops. The visitor was to be given the impression that the people of the house had only stepped out for a second, right before the visitor entered the room. And then they got to work…

“Stundars is growing astonishingly fast. Already, it is the largest local history museum in the Swedish-speaking parts of Finland. Might it soon be the largest in the country? May Seurasaari [open-air museum] tremble at the prospect?”

Gunnar Rosenholm in undated letter

Stundars Association Topp

If the 1960’s was the era of dreams and visions, the 70’s was the era for action and an intense volunteer work. The result of an uncountable number of hours of backbreaking teamwork was no less than 25 new museum buildings at Stundars, everything from a general store with a post office to a forest dairy farm with a summer cattle shed. In 1973, the society was transformed into Stundars hembygdsförening, or Stundars Local History Association. Brage Räfsbäck was appointed as its first chairman – another man that Stundars has a lot to thank for. A contract was drawn up between the young association and Solf vicarage to rent the Stundars hill for the coming 50 years, reassuring everyone involved that the museum’s home was secured. Now, it could be filled with content – and life!

”With force we have to aim to complete the artisan’s cottages with their missing outhouses – including privies. Not before they are in place is the Artisan’s village real”.

Gunnar Rosenholm in a letter dated 3.12.1986

Artisan’s village and Culture centre Topp

In the beginning of the 1980’s, the coordinating and marketing of Stundars Artisan’s village and Culture centre began for real, and pretty soon an executive manager was hired. Peter Båsk became Mr Stundars himself, and together with Rosenholm they planned more projects and moved even more buildings to Stundars. A conscious effort was put on activities for children and youngsters, barriers between languages were broken, The Artisan’s Guild Björken was founded and consultations in how to build traditionally were offered. There was even a bilingual children’s theatre! And all the while you could hear hammers pounding from every corner of the museum village.  

”Stundars really is a top-notch museum. But don’t forget that you are to take the scalp of Luostarinmäki [open-air museum]!”

Gunnar Rosenholm in a letter dated 3.10.1986

What did Mr Rosenholm really envision when he thought about Stundars? In his mind, did he see the cottages, the people, the skipping children and the Japanese tourists, the steaming soup pots and the famous sugared pastries? In his classroom, could he imagine the scent of newly tared roofs, the happy laughs from the hay shed, the shimmering soap bubbles and the picturesque vernissage or the well-attended market days?

”These were just a few comments, delivered with the very best for Stundars in mind – a Stundars that in its extended form will be one of the most renowned open-air museums in the Nordic countries!”.

Gunnar Rosenholm in a letter dated 20.6.1982

Let us present to you what Stundars is today.

Text: Maria Österåker in the book “Stundars” from 2013
The quotes are cited directly from Gunnar Rosenholms letters to different persons engaged in Stundars.