On the second floor of the museum is a miniature diorama depicting 19th-century life in Norway. All the little figures are carved of wood. I’ve often wondered about it, and a little research recently revealed more of its story.
Words on the front of the display indicate that it was carved and painted by Henning Engelsen. Henning Engelsen (1918-2005) was a Norwegian artist and the founder of HENNING, a Norwegian woodcarving company run by the Engelsen family. The HENNING workshop is in Kapp, Østre Toten, a rural area of Norway.
This woodcarving company continues to produce many figurines much like the ones in our display. The display has had several homes in Viroqua, first in Jens Vigdahl’s insurance office, then in Kristin Vigdahl’s gift shop, and finally in Dr. Lars Gulbrandsen’s clinic, before being moved to the museum.
We have paired the diorama with other Norwegian woodcarvings, to help illustrate the continuity of this tradition. Above the diorama is a cupboard, and in it are several figures carved by Roger Hatlem and painted by his wife Miriam. The Hatlems lived in Viroqua and created many painted woodcarvings over the course of about 30 years. The museum is fortunate to now have a large collection of their work.
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You are welcome to visit all of the exhibits during our regular winter hours of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment. (The museum will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.) Please note that the exhibit halls lack heat, so you will need to dress warmly.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and the Vernon County Historical Society has much to be thankful for. We are thankful for our patrons and members and everyone who supports us and takes an interest in Vernon County history. We are thankful for our volunteers, who help keep everything running so that we can fulfill our mission of preserving and promoting Vernon County history. And we are thankful for our buildings and collections, which allow us to interpret different facets of life here. Happy Thanksgiving!