Arriving at Olofsfors ironworks is like arriving to another place in time. Next to Leduån (Ledu river) the 250 year old ironworks lies and bewitch both tourists and daily local visitors. Ever since 1762 iron has been the main focus here at the ironworks. But even with history dominating this beautiful place Olofsfors ironworks is constantly moving forward to preserve the area for future generations.
We are greeted by Olofsfors ironworks curator, Åsa Lindström, at the information office - the gateway to to experiencing Olofsfors ironworks. The history starts right at this office with a life size model of John Jennings - the man who founded the ironworks. In 1762 this businessman received permission to construct a furnace along Leduån (Ledu river), a furnace which became a part of the ironworks Olofsfors. Today - more than 250 years later - Olofsfors is one of the county's most visited tourist destinations.
- We have moved some of the museums objects from the old museum (on the other side of the road) to the information office to create a more inviting entrance. It is important that the visitors quickly understands where they are, Åsa Lindström says.
She gives us a tour of what soon will be the new Olofsfors ironworks museum, in the old lodge for coachmen. The ironworks museum now has more central placement in the area and therefore it's a more natural starting point for the visit. In the museum we walk through the temporary buildning chaos right into the office of the managing director, Ernberg. It is easy to imagine him sitting and managing the whole ironworks from this desk.
The ironworks is still resting but when summer comes the whole area starts to swarm with activity. Approximately 30,000 tourists visit Olofsfors ironworks every year to experience this unique enviroment, the contrast between nature and industry. In addition to the renewed museum there will also be some new exhibitions and a number of exciting cultural events. Some buildings that previously has been closed are now opening. The guided tours at the ironworks are also a popular feature and in the future, hopefully, there will be guided tours focused on the afterlifer. The biggest event of the year is the annual ironworks day. With the 250th anniversary in 2012, Olofsfors ironworks expanded from a one-day event to a two-day event.
We take a walk along the creek to the other side of the area - to the so manufactory forge. This buildning currently houses two studios for artists. One of the artists is Sofie Weibull. Sofie is a multifaceted artist who works with both sculptures, performance art, installations, and other techniques. The studio is situated right by the water and it's filled with, inspirational material and artwork in concrete and much softer materials. One wall is covered with sketches for her new project - a new exterior for Lycksele Folket Hus. Sofie Weibull has had her studio there since 2006.
- I like creating permanent, interactive sculptures. Organic forms. Art that can be used, which people can interact with, Sofie says.
Some examples can be found for example in Krokoms municipality where Sofie Weibull worked with a larger project to create a creative indoor playground in a new school. She has also created an interactive outdoor sculpture for a preschool in Vännäs municipality.
We leave Sofie Weibull at her studio and take a last walk around the ironworks. Olofsfors ironworks has been here 250 years and hopefully it will stand for another 250 years. We can only speculate about how the future of Olofsfors ironworks looks in the future but hopefully it will continue being an important tourist attraction for Nordmaling and the whole region. 250 years into the future, perhaps there will be an exhibit displaying how we lived...