The Voss Folkemuseum

Although most of Fiddling With Fate centers on the Hardanger Folkemuseum, I also wanted to include the Voss Folkemuseum, a sister site. The museum, founded in 1917, preserves the old farmstead at Mølster (Mølstertunet). That museum has a special claim: all of the buildings at the site stand on their original locations.

Historians believe the farm at Mølster was established over a thousand years ago. In western Norway, it was once common for several small farms to be clustered together.

This drawing showing clustered farms, on exhibit at the museum, was made by historian Arne Berg.

Individual families had their own buildings and plots of land, but shared a common courtyard. In Voss, these jumbled patches didn’t start getting consolidated until about 1860.

(Diorama on exhibit at the museum.)

Two families lived at the farm until 1924, when the property was formally transferred to the folk museum.

The museum board visiting the farm in 1919. (Photo displayed at the museum.)
This old postcard shows the farm perched on a hilltop. (Enerett Normanns Kunstforlag A/S Oslo)

In the book, Chloe visits the Voss Folkemuseum with a colleague. After a meeting, she’s able to enjoy a quick tour of the site:

The guide slogged across the muddy lane. “Let’s start in the barn. We’ll be out of the rain and we can see the whole farmyard from there.” She headed toward a large barn with side bays for hay and grain, and a central drive-through/threshing floor. “There have probably been two families farming here since before the Black Death in the thirteen hundreds …”

Chloe tried to listen, she really did, but on this cloudy day the deserted old homes and cowsheds and storage houses—their logs weathered almost gray, with roofs of slate or turf—seemed especially evocative.

The courtyard, as viewed from the barn.
This is the barn Chloe visited.

Focus, Chloe ordered herself, but the palpable rage and joy lingering in the barn were too strong to ignore. …And from a distance, she heard a hardingfele’s irresistible call.

The barn became the setting for the 1888 fiddle competition and dance which Britta and Erik attended.

My visit to the folk museum provided lots of other details for the mystery. The oldest building is an årestove, a log house with a central open hearth, which has been dated to about 1500.

This provides another view of the type of kitchen described at the high farm, in the early years, in Fiddling With Fate

The cluster includes a more modern home (the building on the left in the photo below).

Some of the artifacts in the home helped inform my descriptions of the later years in Fiddling With Fate’s historical timeline.

The room below, in a storehouse, is similar to the one Lisbet visited with Gudrun in 1838: They climbed to the loft, where the family stored wooden chests filled with rye and barley, her mother’s silver jewelry, her father’s savings, their best clothes. Those included Lisbet’s bridal attire.

And this shows the type of bunks provided in the outbuilding for farm workers. Torhild and Gjertrud slept in a storeroom like this while working at the Hotel Utne in the 1850s.

Mr. Ernst and I visited the Voss Folkemuseum on an evocative rainy day, which turned out to provide lots of inspiration. If you have the chance to visit the Hardanger region, keep this historic site on your list!

Tags: , ,

9 Responses to “The Voss Folkemuseum”

  1. Pat Says:

    Very informative and historical-glad such sites are saved and restored.

  2. Freddie Scott Says:

    Seeing these pictures really brings the story to life. Wonderful!

  3. Susan Slinde Says:

    Vicky and I are going in August!! Can hardly wait! Susan

  4. Nancy Oswald Says:

    Loved the history and the photos. What would we do without sites like this and other saved artifacts to inform our historical writing?

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Nancy, I know! Sometimes people think doing the research must make historical fiction more difficult to write, but we get so much inspiration from these special places and objects and stories that I’m not sure that’s the case.

      • Nancy Oswald Says:

        I totally agree. And I always have to watch myself because of the temptation to go down a research rabbit hole. Take care, and thanks for your reply.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: