Skansen is the open air museum that has given its name to museums in many European countries. For 70 years it has attracted more than two million visitors per annum. It was founded in 1891 by the ethnographer Artur Hazelius (1833-1901) whose interests in folk lore had been aroused when he travelled the country in 1869-71 doing research for a dictionary of the Swedish language. In 1872 he established the ethnographical museum that has involved into the present-day Nordiska Museet, and Skansen was a move from collecting artefacts to collecting buildings that was inspired by the collection of old buildings made in Oslo (then Christiana) by King Oskar II. It was located on Djurgarden, a once-fortified island in Stockholm harbour, and the literal meaning of skansen is fortifications.
Skansen and the Nordiska Museet were part of the same foundation until 1963, from which time they have been separately managed. The present-day museum extends over 30 ha and includes more than 150 buildings. Hazelius’s purpose had been to display Swedish culture in the era before industrialisation, but there are many industrial buildings in the collection, and it has been the policy of directors in recent times to display many small, unspectacular buildings that provide evidence of the changes in Swedish life in the 20th century.
A part of the museum is laid out as a Town Quarter, that includes allotment huts of the 1920s, a co-operative store (Konsum) of the same decade, a bakery of 1870, a water-powered furniture factory of 1897-98 from Virserum in Smaland, and a small engineering works of 1889 from Norrtalje in Uppland that made compression ignition engines, that comprises a row of workshops and a machine shop with milling machines, lathes and drills driven by line shafting. Buildings from more rural communities include a flax mill from Halsingland, an ironmaster’s farmstead from Vastmanland, a chipping house used by grindstone makers at Orsa in Dalarna, a tannery from Smaland and a Social Democratic hall of 1908 from Ransater in Varmland, as well as several windmills and numerous mileposts.