Virserum was the major site of Swedish furniture production right up until the 1970s. It then went quickly downhill when the main industry disappeared and the population decreased. One of the largest furniture producers in Virserum was Oskar Edvin Eklunds möbler aktiebolag, which was situated in the area around the art museum. After its bankruptcy in the 1970s, the buildings and area fell into disrepair, but when Sweden joined the EU, the municipality was able to restore this old industrial monument using funds from the Swedish ESF Council. There were however no solid plans as to what the restored area would be used for, other than taking the name DackeStop Kultur- och Turismcentrum [DackeStop Culture and Tourism Centre]. Henrik Teleman, an artist living in Västra Hult, just 5 km from the art museum, had ideas of opening an art gallery whose target audience was people who are not accustomed to visiting art exhibitions. He was offered the opportunity to house the museum in the renovated premises and the museum was inaugurated on 27 June 1998.
The idea was that the art museum would contribute to social development and carry on the old traditions of the furniture industry by working with the theme of wood, but also reflect the unseen domestic work with textiles that has been an important part of the community’s economy. So textile was also a natural choice for a theme. Since 2004, these themes have featured every three years.
In addition to these themes, cooperation with the local community – for example through association fairs, joint projects and exhibitions involving locals – has been a cornerstone. Over the years, work with youth issues has also become a major part of the museum’s activities. Society ages, and you may ask where development will come from. Someone from outside of the region has almost always been employed in these projects, which has led to a certain learning and adaptation process for both the locals and the project employee.
From the beginning, the art museum was located in the main building of a closed down furniture industry; the “polishing shop”, and then in the “oak store”. Gradually, more and more buildings were included to house the large wood exhibitions. Torkladan [the drying shed] was renovated, Såghuset [the sawmill building] was prepared for the exhibition “Urskogens väsen” [The spirit(s) of the primeval forest] and finally Pappershuset [the “Paper House”] was built in 2004 for the first large-scale wood exhibition. The Paper House was intended solely for exhibitions during the summer, and was for example missing flooring in large parts of the ground floor.
After a couple of years, when it became difficult to finance operations via projects, the cost of having personnel in so many different buildings was far too great and the activities moved into the Paper House permanently, whilst the other premises were abandoned. A great deal of conversion work has been necessary for the Paper House to function year round, and a great deal remains to be done. But now there is 1,600 m² of exhibition space across two floors, where 5-6 different rooms can be used. There is also a smaller conference room and a café.