Cultural collaboration in Sweden

In a town in Sweden museums, libraries and archives are collaborating to develop new services, digitise collections and deliver value for money.

A town in Sweden

Gävle is an 'old' town in Sweden (chartered in 1446) with a population of 95,000.  It is an important shipping port, a base for many entrepreneurial companies and a university town.  It also has a public library that is open 365 days a year, and a park dedicated to a famous local librarian!

The importance of cultural heritage

The EU is committed to ensuring that member states coordinate national efforts to digitise and make accessible archives and collections.  Access to cultural heritage and official records is considered to be an important element of Swedish democratic principles.   An awareness and understanding of cultural heritage helps promote local identity and promotes the development of society. 

Museums, libraries and archives (MLA) working together

In Gävle this commitment to enabling and supporting access to the national and local heritage has seen cultural institutions (museums, libraries and archives) in the town join forces in order to:

  • improve access to collections
  • develop new user services
  • promote synergies
  • achieve efficiencies
  • develop skills

This collaborative venture includes public libraries, municipal archives, private sector archives, records offices (including records from orphanages), the county museum, some prison and police records and the Swedish railway museum are able to work together to provide enhanced services to customers.

Collaboration in practice

Anna-Lisa Hillbom was the librarian of Gävle Public Library who became a television personality in the 1970s, famous for her extensive general knowledge.  She created a massive work of local history which has now been digitised by the MLA, ensuring ongoing access to an invaluable resource.  A park in Gävle was dedicated to the memory of Anna-Lisa Hillbom in 2010.

Other collaborative projects have resulted in:

  • The creation of a children's book about the town's history
  • Book fairs, working closely with local authors and publishers
  • Genealogy days (many foreign visitors come to Gavle seeking information about family history)
  • Local history days
  • The development of ‘cultural tourism' opportunities
  • Lecture series

As well as the development of new events, services and products, collaboration can cut costs and save duplicate efforts.  The MLA work together to create joint advertising campaigns, marketing literature and collaborate to create joint programming initiatives. 

What next?

The MLA will continue in its efforts to digitise the collections through collaborative ventures and will focus on opportunities to develop new services.  The objective remains to contribute to the cultural and economic health of the community.

Lisbeth Forslund, Conny Persson and Eva Lindelow spoke about the MLA collaboration at the Axiell Symposium in London.

Photo of Swedish flag courtesy of Flo_P via Flickr.