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Henry County, Illinois Tourism Bureau Announces “Eight Seasons In Sámpi: The Land Of The Sámi People” Museum Exhibit Now Open

June 29, 2013 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

New things are happening this summer in historic little Bishop Hill, Ill., population 128. There’s a new shop, another bed-and-breakfast, an outdoor market and a lively schedule of exhibits and festivals.

Photo Courtesy of Henry County, Illinois Tourism Bureau

Located southeast of the Quad Cities, Bishop Hill isHenry County’s crown jewel, offering a glimpse into a 19th Century utopian community. In 1846, followers of a charismatic spiritual leader, Erik Jansson, left Sweden to build a “Utopia on the Prairie” in their new homeland. The successful commune, based on economic and religious principles, flourished for 15 years, but disbanded after most of the men left to fight in the Civil War. Today, Bishop Hill is a timeless country village where descendants of the original colonists live and work to maintain a modern-day utopia through art, craftsmanship and dedication to their Swedish heritage.

Ushering in Bishop Hill’s summer this year is a fascinating museum exhibit on loan A sample of Sámi weaving, from Sweden. It tells the story of the Sámi, the indigenous people of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia (sometimes called Lapland). For 8,000 years, the Sámi have thrived on a nomadic life based on herding reindeer, hunting and fishing, in a harsh climate.

The June exhibit is on loan from Ájtte (Swedish Mountain & Sámi Museum) and Sámi Duodji (Sámi Handicraft Foundation) in Jokkmokk, Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle. It includes sections on Sámi culture, arts and crafts and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Laponia. The story is told through photographs by Brigitte Aarestrup, who lived with the Sámi for a year and authored “Eight Seasons Above the Arctic Circle: The Sámi of Lapland”, available at the exhibit. Other items in the exhibit are reindeer skins and antlers, toys, drums, shoes, scarves, belts, hats, textiles, poetry, artifacts, pewter and birch utensils. A hands-on section invites children to sit on a reindeer skin and to open and explore a reindeer-skin bag filled with Sámi objects, books and games.

Because Sámi life revolves around the annual cycle of nature and reindeer, there are eight seasons in each year: Spring, Springsummer, Summer, Fallsummer, Fall, Fallwinter, Winter and Springwinter.

The exhibit runs June 1-30 at the Vasa National Archives, 109 S. Bishop Hill St. in Bishop Hill and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission fee to be announced. For more info: 309-927-3898 or

In addition to the two Swedish museums, exhibit sponsors are the Vasa Order of America and the Vasa National Archives. Vasa was founded more than a century ago as a Swedish-American fraternal organization, but today it welcomes people over 14 years old with Scandinavian roots, plus their spouses and anyone interested in preserving and researching Swedish and Nordic heritage.

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