Museum & Sightseeing in Setesdal

In Setesdal we have several cultural and historical museums to offer, including the Setesdal Museum in Rysstad, Sylvartun in Nomeland, Rygnestadtunet in Valle and the steamboat DS Bjoren.

Setesdal Museum

The Setesdal Museum has a 100-year-old history. The Setesdal culture was well known, but so far our philosophy has been to get the most out of the best the valley had to offer, and show it in the cities. In 1916, on the initiative of sheriff Juel Lund and painter Lars Osa, an old smoke train was bought as the first step on the road to a museum for Setesdal. The founding itself did not take place until June 9, 1938.

The Setesdal Museum is first and foremost a cultural history museum, but as the only activity of its kind in Setesdal, it is natural that one as a cultural institution also takes on extended responsibilities. Among other things, the department at Evje has a special focus on the geology in the lower part of Setesdal.

At Sylvartun in Valle municipality, a center for intangible cultural heritage is being built with a focus on folk music, dance and singing. A process of getting the folk music heritage in Setesdal on the UNESCO World Heritage List is well underway, and everything is in place for a positive decision in Paris during 2018.

Nordigard Rygnestad, the farm where the blessing hero Vonde-Åsmund Rygnestad lived in the 1500th century, was the first museum department to open to the public. It is to this day the most special of the museum tuna in the valley.

For people who visited Setesdal, it probably felt many times as if time had stood still until well into the 1900th century. In the cultural landscape there were a lot of stones that made it difficult to use larger horse carriages. The dialect was difficult to understand, and most people wore traditional clothes. Men in long trousers and women in shorts; both parts richly decorated with embroidery.

Working life was in many ways traditional, and adapting to a pace that today would be impossible to relate to. In between, much of the feed for the animals was collected on the mountain in the summer, and transported to farms by sled in the winter. It usually took a day to a quarter of a load, and an ordinary farmer had to count on more trips to the mountains every week if the livestock were to have enough food.

You can find more information on the website Setesdals Museum.

Setesdal Museum Rysstad

Setesdalsmuseet's main building is located at Rysstad in Valle municipality. You are most welcome to drop by during our office hours all year round. Some want to look at exhibitions, others may have some old photos they are wondering about, or are looking for a special local history book. We try to help as much as we can. The museum has special expertise in building protection, costumes and old photos. Of course in addition everything that has to do with old objects and history from the valley.

The museum covers the five municipalities of Iveland, Evje and Hornnes, Bygland, Valle and Bykle, and for fun it happens that we boast of being «the country's longest museum». We are part of the Aust-Agder museum and archive IKS. Together with Kuben in Arendal and Grimstad City's museums, we manage and disseminate the historical and cultural heritage of the county.

This is also where you will find a varied offer of exhibitions. Some are what we call permanent exhibitions and host standing for several years. Others stay shorter, maybe just one summer.

Setesdalsmuseet can be found about 600 m north of Sølvgarden.

Valle Setesdal Museum

Setesdal Stavkyrkje

The old stave church at Bjørgum in Hylestad was demolished in 1664 and replaced with a new church at Rysstad. The "new" Stavkyrkja is scheduled to open in 2030.

It is not known what Hylestad Stavkyrkje looked like, but some elements such as the Hylestad portals have been preserved. The carvings in these tell various stories about Sigurd Fåvnesbane and can be found on the 1 krone piece, stamp and 50 note. Erla Hohler (art historian) has dated the original portals from the church to be from around 1200. They are today at the Cultural History Museum in Oslo.

Based on ground-penetrating radar surveys, there are traces of the church under the ground, so you know how big it was and where it was located. The stave church has been approx. 10 meters x 8 meters large, and is considered a relatively large stave church.

You can see a model of Hylestad Stavkyrkje in scale 1:10 at Setesdalsmuseet!

Hylestad Stavkyrkje is built in the old way and with handmade tools as they used in the 1000th century. The construction process itself is estimated to take around 6 years and cost around NOK 140 million.

Sightseeing Setesdal

Sylvartun, Nomeland

The folk music community in Setesdal is in many ways unique with percussion on hard fiddle and mouth harp, chanting and dancing handed down in an unbroken tradition. The oldest practitioners today learned everything the old-fashioned way - directly from settlements that were born in the late 1800th century.

In addition, music and dance have for a long time been conveyed through performers at a very high artistic level. Folk music is one of the trademarks for Setesdal that people have expectations of when they come to the valley.

From its establishment in 1961 to something into the 2000s, for four decades, Sylvartun was the central silversmith and folk music arena in Setesdal. Setesdalsmuseet has seen it as a task to facilitate so that Sylvartun can once again receive visitors. New exhibitions have been created with a focus on musical instruments and visualization of musical and dance traditions in Setesdal, but with great transfer value to the surrounding area. We call it a center for intangible cultural heritage.

In addition to being an exhibition arena, Sylvartun is also an activity center and an offer for children and young people throughout the valley with a view to promoting intangible cultural heritage, such as a rehearsal arena for the playgroup, cultural sphere, etc.

Sylvartun is located on Nomeland, about 4 km north of Sølvgarden

Sylvartun Setesdal sightseeing

Rygnestadtunet, Valle

Nordigard Rygnestad is the most special museum yard in the valley. In the oldest part of the farmhouse, timber from a house that must have been built sometime before 1350 was used, while the barn was built as late as the 1900th century. It housed people in the houses until 1919. The farmhouse and the two lofts were preserved in 1923. Since 1940, the garden has been our museum.

"Trihåglopt" next to the farmhouse is the only attic with three full floors that is in the valley. The construction is completely unique, partly because the third floor was built first!

A little further down the hill is the so-called Rygnestadloftet, built of logs with unusually large dimensions. The loft was always in two heights, furnished for storing food downstairs, textiles and other nice things upstairs. At Rygnestad Museum, medieval art is preserved, which the owner Vonde-Åsmund, according to tradition, must have brought home from his time as a mercenary down on the continent.

Rygnestad and the surrounding cultural landscape are unusually well preserved, and have therefore been selected as one of 32 specially selected cultural landscapes in Norway.

Rygnestadtunet can be found at Rygnestad in Valle, about 24 km north of Sølvgarden.

Rygnestadtunet Setesdal

DS Bjoren

In the 1840s, a road was built that made it possible to ride horses and carts up Setesdal. When the steamboats Bjoren and Dølen started sailing in 1867, the transport was once again dramatically changed. From living in an almost natural household, the seat dolmen began to shop more and more in the cities. Railways in 1896 (Setesdalsbanen to Byglandsfjord) and buses from 1920 only strengthened the development, and contributed to the Setesdales being a more integrated part of Norwegian society.

Bjoren has not been on route since 1957. After three decades where it looked like it would never come on the lake again, it was restored in 1994. Today, this floating cultural monument is one of the most important attractions the valley has to offer in the summer, and is widely used by both villagers and guests. It even has a wart «cruise ship»!

For most people, the Sunday trips starting either on Bygland or on Byglandsfjord are very popular. In the early summer, a sailing plan will be set up with supplementary information so that tickets can be ordered in advance.

DS Bjoren is located by the quayside on Byglandsfjord or by Bygland museum, about 43 km south of Sølvgarden.

Activities Setesdal