Sam Hultin

Foto: Konstfrämjandet Västerbotten

Vår historia (Our story) - 2016

Installation: sound x2 (5:51 min) and video (23:41 min), borrowed objects from archives and collections from Västerbotten Museum

Maja Beskow (1877-1964) and Juliana (Julia) Byström (1857-1946), both teachers, lived together for almost 40 years during the first half of the 20th century. Maja is best known for being the first woman to be employed as a teacher at Umeå secondary grammar school, but she was also a skilled illustrator, amateur photographer and active in social clubs as well as one of the founders of the sailor's home in Holmsund. Julia also had one of the most senior positions then available to women at Umeå's elementary school teachers' training college and she was also active in Swedish women's missionary association where she met Maja in 1905. As their home was donated to Västerbottens museum after Maja’s death, we know quite a bit about these women. Masses of letters, diaries, photographs, sketches and paintings remain for posterity. Although, relatively few letters sent between the two women remain, making it difficult to establish the nature of their relationship. However, Julia left her entire inheritance to Maja and they lie buried in the same grave in the western cemetery in Umeå.

Like most other cultural institutions, Västerbottens museum has not collected stories about lesbians or other LGBTQI persons. During The Family Project in the 1990s – when close to 350 people around Västerbotten were interviewed about their family relationships – no same-sex relationships were mentioned. This gives us an idea about what historically (and, it must be assumed, partially still) has been viewed as a real family or relationship.

We have history, culture and its institutions in order to reflect and understand ourselves and the people around us. What does it mean when cultural institutions do not represent people who break the norms of race, ability, class, gender or sexual orientation?

What do we do if our history is not preserved?

The work consists of a replica of Maja Beskow and Julia Byströms living room where two audio tracks are played for the visitors - a fantasy about the women's first meeting. A video is also shown in the installation in which three lesbian couples living in Umeå today tells how they met.

The project was commisioned by Konstfrämjandet Västerbotten and Västerbottens museum as a part of the project The white house.

Click here to listen to audio file nr 1 - Maja (in Swedish) >>>

Click here to listen to audio file nr 2 - Julia (in Swedish) >>>

Click here to read an english translation of the audio files >>>

Click here to watch the video (eng subs) >>>

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