The Swedish Local Heritage Federation was founded in 1916 and serves a nationwide local heritage movement, consisting of 26 affiliated regional federations and some 2,000 local heritage societies, with approximately 450,000 individual members in total.
The mission of this grass-roots movement is to preserve, protect, share, and develop local cultural heritage. To this end, the local societies maintain 1,400 heritage centres, most of them open-air museums, hosting collections of buildings and artefacts as well as extensive archives. Activities tend to be quite diverse, reflecting local needs and interests, but with a strong focus on the preservation and promotion of the cultural heritage in the local area, often in collaboration with schools and local museums. Many heritage centres also run guest houses and cafés, thus playing an important role for local tourism. The local heritage movement is also actively involved in lobbying and negotiating with various actors, especially on environmental issues. At national level, the Federation often functions as a consultation body for various governmental committees.
There is no English equivalent to the word hembygd, but its meaning is quite similar to the German Heimat (albeit without the latter’s more sinister connotations). Although the local heritage movement in Sweden began as a reaction to industrialization and urbanization, many local heritage societies have since been established in urban areas. Documentation and preservation of 20th century industrial heritage, as well as inclusive community building, have become important tasks for the local heritage movement.
The Local Heritage Federation publishes a quarterly journal, Bygd och natur, and a series of handbooks and study guides. In addition, the Federation maintains the extensive web portal www.hembygd.se, hosting more than 1,200 individual websites, and the website www.bygdeband.se.
The website www.bygdeband.se today contains more than one million photographs and other documents, and is open to the public. About 570 local heritage societies present their material on the website, where you can find information about people along with facts, pictures and other information. This makes the website popular among genealogists and family history researchers, from Sweden and abroad.