The History of Bridging Ages and the Time Travel method

The History of

Bridging Ages. International Organization in Applied Heritage and Time Travel, and the Time Travel method

The Time Travel method, the start at Kalmar County Museum, Sweden

In 1980, Swedish schools got a new curriculum emphasizing the importance of using the experience of the pupils in the teaching, the pupils own “research”, and also opened for more use of local history and life experiences in education. This was the start of a project between Kalmar County Museum, Regional Department of Education in Kalmar County and three schools on local Sites and Stories, connecting the nearby history with the pupils’ life reality. Instead of teaching about the Stone Age as a distant land with remains far away from the school, the local Stone Age site and the interest of the pupils came in focus. The idea was to connect the pupils’ life with Stone Age people who lived in the surroundings several thousands of years ago. And the museum supported the school in implementing the curriculum.

The students raised their own questions on the Stone Age (or other chosen time periods), which gave them motivation to research and find the answers. Several subjects were involved. A good learning method is to use all senses. It was decided that for one day the pupils, together with teachers and museum staff, relived the life at the local Stone Age site, close to the school. The pupils were the persons 5000 years ago, those they had researched and studied. The chosen topics and issues were in focus. This very first Time Travel was organized in 1986, in the outskirts of Kalmar, after more than a year of preparation.

After three pilot years the new learning method was opened to all schools in the Kalmar region. Already the first year, 1990, more than fifty schools were involved. Kalmar läns museum organized many, many training days with teachers, about local history and useful sources for the students “research”. Up to 100 “Time Travels” per year were organized with school classes with lots of practical activities and ancient technique. The local sites were always close to the schools, in walking or biking distance.

In the 1990s, this learning concept opened up for adults, for local historical societies and study circles. The local study groups and the museum also arranged quite big public historical events at a local site.

In 1997 Kalmar celebrated the 600 years anniversary of the Kalmar union in 1397. Research resulted in teaching material, books and fact compilations on the web. Many hundreds of historical events were organized by Kalmar läns museum in the Kalmar region, national TV series were made.

The work of the museum was noticed all over the country and in the year 2000 the museum got a three-year National Commission from Department of Culture and the Swedish government, to inspire others throughout Sweden to do something similar.

Kalmar county museum goes abroad

Kalmar county museum, Sweden developed the Time Travel method in the mid-1980s. In the 1990s most of the primary and secondary schools in the region took part in Time Travel events close to their school organized by the museum, each Time Travel with its own local scenario. Most of the events were connected to training courses in the Time Travel method for teachers. In the mid-1990s Kalmar county museum also started with training courses and Time Travel events with adult groups. And there were university courses, TV programs and several big Time Travel events for the public. Starting with the Stone Age and the Middle Ages, in the end of the 1990s, Kalmar county museum could offer Time Travels to any time- period from the Stone Age to the 1960s.

In 1999 a teacher from a folk-high school in Vasa, Finland participated in a Time Travel event to the Middle Ages at Kronobäck monastery north of Kalmar. He was very excited and immediately asked the museum staff to come to Vasa, Finland and organize Time Travel events with his students. In September 1999 Kalmar county museum organized the first Time Travel event in another country, a Time Travel to 1395 at a medieval fortress in Vasa, Finland. This was the start of a long collaboration on the Time Travel method between Kalmar county museum, the Finish folk high school, FKF and several other organizations in Finland.

In 1999 a museum educator from the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, USA came to Kalmar and got interested in the Time Travel method. Kalmar county museum was invited to Minnesota and in May 2000 the first Time Travel events were organized at two sites, with their specific stories, in Minnesota. This was also the start of many years of collaboration between Minnesota, and later also New Mexico, in the USA. In Las Cruces, New Mexico a university course on the Time Travel method started at New Mexico State University in 2002.

In the year 2000 Kalmar county museum were invited to the Åland Islands by the Long Live History Committee, connected to education and museum on the Åland Islands. This became a three-year project on developing the Time Travel method, mainly with schools, but also local groups, on Åland. It continued a few years later when Ebbe Westergren from Kalmar county museum was given the task to write a school book on the history of the Åland Islands.

After presenting the Time Travel method at a conference in Cheltenham, UK, the Kalmar county museum was invited to make a presentation in Rome and also make Time Travel events at the Palatine. The museum had invitations to Latvia in 2002 and Poland in 2003 and made Time Travel events and presentations. A collaboration between Kalmar county museum, the Estonian school in Stockholm ended with Time Travel events in Tallinn, Estonia, at a medieval monastery ruin, and several connections to schools and the City Museum in Tallinn. Kalmar county museum got funding for an international project, “Visions of the Future”, between museums and schools in Finland, Iceland and Sweden. It led to the first Time Travel events on Iceland and in Turku, Finland. A visit to Kenya in 2004 also resulted in connections between Kalmar county museum and teachers, especially in northern Kenya.

Bridging Ages first conference/ symposium, Vimmerby, Sweden 2004

Because of the several international projects that Kalmar county museum had started and the spread of the Time Travel method to several countries, it became interesting to get the various Time Travel groups together. In 2004 Kalmar county museum was asked by the Vimmerby Academy/ Vimmerby municipality, Kalmar county to organize a symposium on the Time Travel method with their international partners, “in the spirit of Astrid Lindgren”, the famous Swedish children author, born in Vimmerby.

14-16 November 2004, 40 people from eight countries (USA, Minnesota and New Mexico, Italy, Estonia, Latvia, Iceland, Kenya, UK and Sweden) met in Vimmerby for the first Time Travel seminar. There were three main topics: Learning, Community Development and Building Networks. The representatives from all the Time Travel groups made presentations; there was a fascinating Time Travel event to 1914 and the seventh birthday of Astrid Lindgren in her grandmother’s hose, also workshops and discussions. At the end of the symposium, it was a common wish to continue the partnership. The delegates decided to form an International Network in Historic Environment Education and Time Travels, Bridging Ages. Kalmar county museum and Ebbe Westergren was elected as the coordinator of the network. There is a written report, with most of the presentations, from this first Bridging Ages symposium/ conference: “Holy Cow – This is great”. Report from a Symposium on Historic Environment Education and Time Travels in Vimmerby, Sweden, November 2004.

Bridging Ages network continues

In 2006, the second seminar/ conference in the Bridging Ages network was held in Rome, organized by Eugenia Bolognesi, Association Palatina-Istanbul.

Bridging Ages Organization

In 2007, at the third conference in Tukums, Latvia, it was decided to transform Bridging Ages into a formal organization, with constitution, board, office etc. The head office would continue at Kalmar läns museum.

The first board members were:

President: Ebbe Westergren, Kalmar County Museum, Sweden

Vice President: Jon Hunner, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, USA

Secretary: Nina Clark, American Swedish Institute, Minnesota, USA

Eugenia Bolognesi, Association Palatina-Istanbul, Rome, Italy

Gunilla Sand, Stundars Open-Air Museum, Finland

Agrita Ozola, Tukums Museum, Latvia

Leen Joesoo, Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union, Tallinn, Estonia

After half a year of investigations, the board decided not to register as an NGO and not to have an economy within the organization. The international projects were always between local/ regional/ national organizations or institutions and the economy was included in the projects. And the host organization were responsible for the conferences.

More international, other countries. Serbia, SA, Kenya, Uganda, Ireland, Turkey

In 2015 Bridging Ages was registered as an NGO in Sweden, with the office at Kalmar county museum. This gave an opportunity to apply for funding for Bridging Ages, as a complement to the other funding applications between institutions.

In 2014, Annina Ylikoski, from Vasa, Finland, took over as president of Bridging Ages, after Ebbe Westergren, Kalmar, who became honorary president. So, a Bridging Ages office opened also in Vasa, Finland

Bridging Ages Annual Conferences

The annual international conferences have always been an important get-together for Bridging Ages groups all over the world and for other interested people, a mix of Bridging Ages “veterans” and newcomers: workshops, presentations, every year a fascinating Time Travel event and enjoyable social gatherings in the evenings.

The largest conference has been the conference in Kalmar 2016 with 240 delegates from 20 countries. The conferences in Izmir/ Manisa, Turkey and Ngurunit, Kenya attracted 150-200 delegates.

2004 – Vimmerby, Sweden

2006 – Rome, Italy

2007 – Tukums, Latvia

2008 – Worcester, South Africa

2009 – Ostrobotnia, Finland

2010 – Kalmar, Sweden

2011 – Tallinn, Estonia

2012 – Izmir/ Manisa, Turkey

2013 – Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

2014 – Ngurunit, Kenya

2015 – Dundalk, Ireland

2016 – Kalmar, Sweden

2017 – Vasa, Finland

2018 – Pretoria, South Africa

Involved countries

Bridging Ages has grown. In 2018 people from about 25 countries on four continents are part of the organization. Kalmar läns museum has had projects in more than 15 of these countries. National and regional branches of Bridging Ages have started in several countries, for instance in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. The most active countries are Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Ireland, Turkey, USA, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Sweden. Several institutions from new countries join most every year.

Training courses and workshops are an integrated part of the work. University courses exist in New Mexico, USA and Sweden and are planned in a couple of other countries.


Much of the ideas from the early 1980s are still the same in the “Time Travel concept”, the use of local sites and stories, start from your own point of view and your own interest to motivate research and studies, activate all senses and emotions. But at the same time the concept is all the time developing and changing according to various conditions in different countries and in society, and also in the interest of the participants. The concept has become very wide including most of the topics in society and adding several pedagogical tools.

The last ten years the focus on contemporary issues in society has increased. Now often the work starts on today’s issues, what is important in the community or in the country today. These issues are given a historical perspective at a local site and a story with similar problems is developed. An important word in the Time Travel is reflection, to give a chance to reflect on today’s issues by using similar events in the past. Key questions are formulated in the Time Travel, questions of today and the past. In the Time Travel there are “learning areas” where the chosen issues are discussed, but in another time, when all participants have changed character. The historical setting makes it easier to relax and open up for reflections and discussions.

The Time Travel Method

is an educational method,
using local heritage in a learning process,
to create reflection on contemporary issues,
and provide tools for community building.

The goal is to promote learning, social cohesion and contribute to community building


The website has a lot of information on Bridging Ages and the Time Travel method:

- what is the Time Travel method?

- what has been done in the different countries, BA world wide

- information on the conferences

- the Bridging Ages board, annual reports and action plans

- newsletters and a small library

- latest news

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February 2018

Ebbe Westergren

Kalmar county museum, Sweden

Bridging Ages, Honorary President