Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet might not sound like the most interesting place. Well, at least that’s what we thought – until we visited the place. Marit Norin guided us, not only through the museum. No, she took us to the Porfyrverket where it all started. Join us as we visit this super special place!
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Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet – get your facts straight
It is the day after midsummer (a huge Swedish holiday). We are in Dalarna on a press trip and it’s time to visit a museum dedicated to porphyry and guitars. Neither Mini nor I am overexcited. Who wants to spend their time looking at rocks? But it’s written in our schedule so here we are. We are outside of the old “Porfyrverk” = the place where they worked the stone. The tour starts here and after that, we will visit the museum.
We have seen so many nice things during our trip to Dalarna and we don’t know what to expect. I mean, there must be a reason why we should visit this place, right?! And boy, do we change our minds after a couple of hours. These places are awesome. It’s so interesting and fun and informative – all at once. Hopefully, we have learned, once and for all to not have preconceptions. This place actually turns out to be a highlight of the trip to Dalarna.
Porfyrverket – Porphyry workshop
We are walking around outside of the old building. It’s hard to grasp that this is the “new porphyry workshop” because it looks really old. In fact, it is old – it dates back to 1897. The older place was built in 1788 and when this one opened in 1897, it was considered to be new. Soon, Marit joins us and open the place up. It turns out that we travel right back in time as soon as we enter the porphyry workshop.
The place was operated as a workshop until 1983. After work that day, the door was closed and the place was left as is. And to this day – nothing has been prepared or changed. It looks just the same as it did in 1983 with machines, where some of them date back to the 1700s. Tours here are made by reservations and you can visit all year round. It’s the perfect start to learn more about porphyry before visiting the museum.
The Porphyry workshop
There are more than 100 different kinds of porphyry from Älvdalen. It’s a hard material to work with and that’s why the end products are so expensive. Because let’s face it – this stone is worth its weight in gold! Today, the material is used for making roads so it’s not that exclusive but before, they used to make some really great products from the material. And you can see the whole process of how they made the products.
It’s incredible to hear Marit tell us that it took about one year to saw through 60 centimeters of porphyry. No wonder that it was so expensive. And not only did it take that long to make the products (like cufflinks, bowls, vases, and other things) – about 55-60 percent of the things cracked and got ruined during the process of being made. A guided tour of the workshop is really a great experience!
Porfyrmuseet in Alvdalen
After spending some time at Porfyrverket, we continue our journey through Älvdalen with a visit to the museum. Now, we are both excited since we heard so many fun facts at the workshop. And Marit does not disappoint us. We get the most awesome tour of the museum. Even if it’s not a big place and there aren’t that many objects to look at, we end up spending a lot of time here. There are so many fun stories about the objects inside the museum. For example, we learn that:
- The first urn that was made in porphyry was made in Eskilstuna and it took two years to make.
- A butter-box that is sold on an auction today will set you back about 1 000 – 4 000 euros (depending on the quality).
- 75 percent of the artifacts made out of the porphyry has left Sweden and are in private collections around the world.
- They have the largest urn inside the Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet that is made out of porphyry.
- There will probably never start new production of things made out of porphyry – except for small things like rings and necklaces.
Hearing more funny stories at Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet
Who knew that something so valuable (30 000 – 40 000 euros) would be hidden inside a school? Well, that happened at Marit’s school. Inside the museum, there’s a big vase. Many years ago, that vase was inside a school. And during that time – it was used as a trashcan. After several years, it was hidden inside the school and when the museum was supposed to open, they brought the “trashcan” back to life.
It’s incredible that something so valuable was once the holding place for old chewing gum and trash. Marit says that it took quite some time to get it all clean and fresh and restored to the way it looks today. All of the objects inside the museum have an interesting story to tell and the people working at the Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet are happy to inform you about the different things that are on display.
The sarcophagus of a King
At Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet, there’s a painting of a sarcophagus and a long walk. The story is impressive. It took eight years to build the sarcophagus for the late King Karl XIV Johan. The weight turned out to be 15 tons. They dragged it 230 kilometers in 16 days and it took more than 300 men to drag it during the winter of 1856.
The original sarcophagus can be seen in the church “Riddarholmskyrkan” in Stockholm. However, there was a replica (somewhat) made and the whole procedure of the dragging was made in Älvdalen. The new sarcophagus is close to the museum and it was a huge thing on the news when the reenactment was done. How awesome is that?!
Hagstrom museum – where the electric guitar started
Inside Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet there’s more than just Älvdalskvartsit. Here you can also learn all about the history of the world-famous Hagström electric guitar. A fun fact is that the company started to do accordions in the very building where there’s an ICA food store today. It is said that if you start to dig where the parking lot is today, you will find a lot of spare parts of accordions and guitars.
So, after Hagström had been making accordeons (they ended up making 700 000 of them), they also opened up music shops and schools. It was not time to expand. It was the 50s and the son of the family got 20 accordions and 40 dollars to spread their product in America. They told the sun that he was not allowed to return before he had sold them all. Well, let’s just say that it was easier said than done…
Buying a Gibson electric guitar
After spending some time in America, the son had no luck in selling the accordeons. But he had stumbled upon a new thing that was trending in the US – the electric guitar. He ended up buying one for the money he earned and came back with the guitar. Let’s just say that it was not well accepted in the beginning.
In 1958, the first Hagström guitar was born. It looked a bit different than the other electric guitars on the market. That was due to the fact that they used parts from the accordion to make the guitar. They didn’t know how good the guitar was so they didn’t want to show their name on it. And then Elvis ended up with one and the whole world demanded the guitar.
Elvis and the Hagstrom
So, the story goes that Elvis was having a photoshoot. The photographer wanted to add a little “oomph” to the picture and there was a guitar laying around. He took the guitar and gave it to Elvis and took his pictures. The electric guitar (that, of course, was a Hagström) was heavy in the front and tilted forward as soon as you let go of it. In fact, that was a malfunction.
After everyone saw the picture of Elvis, everyone wanted the same guitar. At first, Hagström needed to fix the problem with the “heavy in the front guitar”. But soon they got a call from America that said “Don’t change a thing“. It turned out that everyone thought that the feature was cool. During the production of their electric guitars, they made 130 000 guitars in the factory in Älvdalen. In 1983 they moved their production and today the old factory is a grocery store.
Our visit to the Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet
As I said, we weren’t too excited at the beginning to visit this place. Today, we think of it as one of the highlights of our trip. It was interesting and fun and the best part was the fun facts that we got. Yes, it is a strange mix to have a museum dedicated to both electric guitars and stone.
This place is fun for the whole family. Make sure to ask the people working there to tell you more about the things that are on display. Then you will get the most out of your visit. The museum is opened during summer and autumn. Call, or email them for a private showing.
Information about Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet
Address: Isakvägen 10 B, 79631 Älvdalen, Sweden.
Entrance fee: Both museums for about 7 euros per person.
Website of Porfyr and Hagstrommuseet.