Scan Magazine, Issue 91, August 2016

Page 46

Scan Magazine  |  Special Theme  |  Culture in Norway

Left: Since 2002, the Foundation Prestegårdslåna has managed the protected vicarage in Melhus by encouraging people to volunteer doing the work they like the most. Top right: This room, located above the kitchen, is called Pigeværelset (the Maid’s Room). Right: The Foundation Prestegårdslåna has received many gifts and donations, including this book from 1739. All the rooms in the vicarage have their own names.

Sticking up for the past In the Norwegian village of Melhus, hard-working volunteers have turned an old vicarage into a museum to protect endangered heritage, provide a local cultural platform and keep the good conversation going. By Eirik Elvevold | Photos: Kristine Kaasa Moe

When times change, most people keep going without looking back. In Melhus, however, a small group of people refused to look the other way when their local vicarage was threatened in the 1980s. The vicarage, called Prestegårdslåna, had housed priests from its construction in the early 18th century up until 1961. Nevertheless, local government and church officials, pressed by a growing cemetery, concluded that the old building had to go. Today, the yellow wooden building still stands as a museum, largely owing its existence to the interest group The Friends of Prestegårdslåna, whose members finally won a long-lasting debate to save their heritage. The vicarage and its surrounding garden are now protected by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage and managed by The Foundation Prestegårdslåna – a non-profit foundation based on voluntarism. 46  |  Issue 91  |  August 2016

“Visitors can experience four centuries of history for free through our exhibitions, documents and the building itself. We also organise free events with literature, classical music, lectures and good conversation over a cup of coffee,” says chair of the foundation Kristine Kaasa Moe.

Heritage, hospitality and humanity Prestegårdslåna has regained its character with a rebuilt ‘stabbur’, originally from 1780, as well as a reconstructed gazebo and picket fence; but not only the physical things are being preserved. Since cultural heritage can also be immaterial, Kaasa Moe consciously tries to pass on the knowledge, ideas and values that have shaped the vicarage and help people discover what is right in front of them. “When a child comes to me with an old househould object, treating it like a valuable treasure – that almost makes me cry,” says Kaasa Moe.

Material and immaterial heritage often merge together at Prestegårdslåna. Once, Kaasa Moe found a speech from the 19th century about a deceased priest named Peder Schjelderup Nissen. The author of the speech wrote that Nissen’s home had been characterised by “strict order, hospitality and humanity”. These values have since become a guiding star for the foundation. ”A good priest would not charge for a cup of coffee and neither will we. The point here is not to die rich, but to do something good, share stories and give meaning to life,” Kaasa Moe concludes.

Open every Saturday from 11.30am to 1.30pm. Free admission, coffee and guided tour. Contact: +47 976 22 708 Guided tour outside opening hours: 100 NOK per person.

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