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The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
presents the Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture Series

March 24, 2009 Event Flyer

Living and Building between Tradition and Change:
Vernacular Architecture in Northern Sweden

Presented by Mats Widbom

2009 Botkin Lecture Flyer for Mats Widbom

During a time period of four years, Mats Widbom studied the traditional dwellings and settlements in Lima Parish in northern Dalarna, Sweden. These settlements include some ten villages, and each village comprises five to ten farms. Many villagers still live on their family farms, in the traditional type of house known as a double house or parstuga, where they still burn log fires, where people still can enter the neighbor’s house without knocking. Yet, Lima is also a place where the winds of change are blowing.

Today only a few farms keep livestock, work takes people to the capital, and internet connections, Blackberries, and satellite dishes on the roofs join the local community and the outside world. The arrangement of buildings around a square court has generally been dissolved, new materials and forms have been introduced, and the old parstuga has been fitted with bathrooms and modern kitchens. It is this encounter of the tenacious structures of local architecture and the changed conditions and needs of modern life that has interested Widbom. How do the local people relate to older patterns of housing when they rebuild and extend their homes, and when they furnish and decorate them? What sort of continuity can we see? What are the expressions of tradition or modernity and change? It would be impossible to try to describe society in the Lima district in terms of either unconsciously inherited tradition or consciously shaped tradition. Widbom will instead present some Limafarms where the home has been shaped in the not-wholly-uncomplicated encounter of tradition and change.

Parstuga courtyard
Västagården in Lima Parish, Dalarna, Sweden, showing the central enclosed courtyard. The farm was built in 1780. Photo by Mats Widbom.

Mats Widbom, Cultural Counselor at the Embassy of Sweden, and former Artistic Director for the Swedish governmental authority Swedish Travelling Exhibitions, has a background in architecture and folklore. He was the co-editor, together with Dr. Barbro Klein — a leading ethnologist from Sweden — of the book Swedish Folk Art: All Tradition is Change. The book was published by Harry Abrams in connection with the exhibition of the same name that toured in the US and Canada for three years in the mid 1990s.

Through the Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series, the American Folklife Center presents the best of current research and practice in Folklore, Folklife, and closely related fields. The year-round series of monthly lectures invites professionals from both academia and the public sector to present findings from their ongoing research and fieldwork. The Botkin series is free and open to the general public. In addition, each lecture is video and audio recorded by the AFC for permanent deposit in the Archive of Folk Culture, where students, scholars, and other interested people can access them.

AFC logo The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American Folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and training. The Center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. Please visit our web site.


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   June 23, 2011
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