What is the meaning of exhibiting cabinets from a farmhouse in Hallingdal painted in the traditional Norwegian style of rosemaling together with the interiors from bourgeois city life in the 1700s? These two types of artifacts have long been cultural and historical dichotomies. The first conveys what is "Norwegian" and traditional, and the second relates to European fashions that are volatile and constantly changing. Of peasant culture, we see values, myths and history. Of the civic imports, we see vanity and abundance.
The exhibition "Artifacts for life" brings together items and reveals that they were originally asymmetrical halves of the same mental universe. The artifacts were created in a society that had clearly defined rules for what functions and symbols a set of objects should reflect. In their assortment of materials and techniques, the artifacts display their diversity in past societies and their breadth in a material culture.
Museums have long shared certain aspects of objects and artifacts, namely their craftsmanship, variation, as well as geographic distribution – that once the objects were caught up in different groups of people, they were assimilated, transformed and simplified. European imports were, in short, unloaded in Drammen, sold and copied so that their end form and decoration is based in the "folk art" of the upper valleys. These artifacts were also out on a sort of geographical journey from the city to the countryside. Culture researchers characterizes this as the result of a "social walk down” through the layers of society, where the styles were adapted as the objects lost their fashion value in society. Once an artifact had lost its value, peasant society would often purchased the inventory of an auction and used the objects to decorate their houses.
However, the objects that this museum displays reveal that the connections between the layers of society were more complex than is usually depicted. In populous districts of the lower Buskerud region, high social mobility and many luxury goods were in circulation. In 1784, the vicar Hans Strøm spoke of the “peasants’” draw towards luxury and fashion that was unbefitting to their condition.