The Skare Collection at the McFarland Historical Society comprises over one thousand objects related to the Norwegian immigrant experience collected by Albert Skare of McFarland, Wisconsin. Skare was born in 1878 in McFarland, the son of immigrants from the Telemark region of Norway. The Skare homestead, located just east of McFarland, was known as "Hidden Farm" or "Hidden Valley Farm". As a young child, Skare lived in the original log cabin built by his father, Ole, upon his arrival in Wisconsin. According to sources at the McFarland Historical Society, when the Skare family moved into a larger, two-story house on the Hidden Farm property, the cabin was used to store extra furnishings and frequently employed as extra sleeping quarters for large gatherings and holidays. Albert Skare inherited the Hidden Farm property from his father, and beginning sometime in the 20th century, he began to cultivate a collection of Norwegian immigrant objects. According to information collected by the McFarland Historical Society, the artifacts were specially displayed for viewing at family reunions as early as the 1930s and 1940s. Shortly after Albert Skare's death, his niece Margaret Greene Kennedy donated his entire collection, including the preserved cabin, to the McFarland Historical Society in 1969.
What prompted Skare to amass such a large collection of farm implements, household objects and home furnishings? Skare came of age at a time when the first wave of ethnic awareness swept through the Norwegian-American community, from 1895 to 1905. Born and raised in America, second generation Norwegians did not experience the same pressure to hide their ethnic roots as their parents. They were removed enough from Norway to develop a sense of curiosity about their ancestors' culture. Collecting objects associated with his immigrant heritage was perhaps Skare's response to the longing to reconnect often associated with the second generation of immigrants. Skare was probably aware of other collections of Norwegian material culture already in progress, such as Luther College's collection (later to become the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa), and of celebrations of ethnic pride through material culture such as the Norway Building from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (displayed again at the 1933 Fair). Skare's decision to display his artifacts indicates a desire to share and celebrate Norwegian heritage, a tradition which continues today at the McFarland Historical Society and online
with the creation of this digital collection.
Sources: Nelson, John Marion, ed. Material Culture and People's Art Among the Norwegians in America. Northfield, MN: The Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1994. Nelson, Marion, ed. Norwegian Folk Art: The Migration of a Tradition. New York: Abbeville Press, 1995.
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