The history of Silvermuseet began in the early 1920s when Einar Wallquist, a young, newly-graduated provincial doctor, came to serve in Arjeplog. He was soon captivated by the district and its people and quickly began collecting artefacts with the intention of documenting Arjeplog’s rich cultural history.
The collections grew large during the Doctor’s forty-year service in this vast mountain parish and ‘the Doctor’s things’ were stored all over the village wherever room could be found. It was not until Dr. Wallquist retired that he could dedicate himself in earnest to his plans for a museum.
From the living room windows of the Doctor’s house, Einar Wallquist looked out over Arjeplog. By the town square he could see the old Kronskolan, which had served as a boarding school for the nomadic Sámi’s children. Built in the mid-1850s, the schoolhouse was a large building that rose above the surrounding buildings.
When it came time for the Doctor to retire, Kronskolan had stood unused for about 20 years. The building was extremely dilapidated and because it was intended that the new road connecting Norway and Sweden would run through Arjeplog, the school was set to be demolished. Doctor Wallquist, who was also a member of the municipal council, lodged a petition with the Swedish National Heritage Board to be granted permission to relocate and renovate Kronskolan to make it suitable for housing a museum.
The Doctor’s petition was favourably received. Kronskolan was shifted approximately 15 metres and renovated under Wallquist’s oversight. He decorated the interior of the future museum with reconstructed interiors from homes on small farms and with objects that were familiar to Arjeplog’s residents. In 1965, a few years after he retired, Einar Wallquist was able to open his Silvermuseet in the former nomad school. He served as head of the museum until the end of 1985, when he passed away at almost 90 years of age.
“It should never become static; something must always be happening,” Dr. Wallquist was heard to say even back in his own day. Silvermuseet is by no means static. During the 50 years that have passed since the museum opened it has outgrown the old schoolhouse and new buildings have been added, both above ground and below it. The museum’s work has changed and become focused. While visitors from near and far take in the stories conveyed by the exhibitions, researchers at the museum’s Institute for Arctic Landscape Research (INSARC) conduct internationally recognized interdisciplinary research. New knowledge and insight are constantly added to the museum and its exhibitions; it is never static.