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Oslo's Museum Centre

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Norsk Folkemuseum - Oslo, Norway     For anyone with even a passing interest in history, Norway offers one of the finest networks of museums anywhere. There are over 800 museums to choose from, so for the traveler with limited time, the Bygdøy peninsula, a short ferry trip from downtown Oslo, is a must-visit. Located within a few blocks of each other are five museums offering a widely-varied view of Norway's past, from farming and religion to shipbuilding and exploration.

    The Norwegian Folk Museum (seen in the photo above) is home to a wide array of buildings and related artifacts. Guides in folk dress add to the flavour of the complex. Among the notable features are:

  • the 800-year-old Gol Stave church,
  • a large collection of Norwegian folk costumes and folk art, and
  • displays of Sami culture.

        The Norwegian Maritime Museum, founded in 1914, houses a vast collection of ships, boats, and related artifacts and other material. The large library houses the collections of several noted ship designers, and is also heavily used by genealogists, as it contains manifests of many of the vessels that took emigrants to North America. Of particular note in the museum's boat collection, which ranges from dugout canoes to polar exploration ships and a modern racing sloop are:

  • the Colin Archer, built in 1893, was the first of what became a very successful style of sail-powered rescue boat (Redningsskøyter) on the Norwegian coast.
  • the Gjoa, the first vessel through the legendary Northwest Passage, sits outside. It took Roald Amundsen from 1903 until 1906 to make the passage
  • the three-masted schooner Svanen ("Swan"), built in 1916, is one of three operational vessels owned by the museum.

        The Fram Museum preserves the polar exploration ship Fram, which, between 1893 and 1925, sailed further north and further south than any other surface vessel. She was designed by Fridtjof Nansen specifically for ice-choked waters, and most importantly, to survive wintering in the ice pack. He sailed her north and spent the years 1893-1896 sailing and/or drifting in the Arctic seas. Otto Sverdrup then used her to explore northwestern Greenland from 1898 to 1902, during which time he added 200-300,000 square kilometers of land to the maps of Greenland. Finally, between 1910 and 1925, Roald Amundsen took her to both the Arctic and Antarctic on four trips.

    The Viking Ship Museum - Oslo, Norway     The Viking Ship Museum houses three ships found in large burial mounds in the Oslo fjord region. The best-preserved Viking ships in existence, each contained a wealth of material, both decorative and utilitarian, dating back up to 1200 years. The ships are:

  • the 22-meter Oseberg ship (seen in the photo to the right) was built ca. 815-820 AD, and in 834 was used to bury a prominent woman, along with her most prized possessions. Discovered in a large burial mound on a farm in Vestfold, it was excavated in 1904. Among the items recovered were objects of wood, leather and textiles, many of which had never been found in graves from the Viking period.
  • the 24-meter Gokstad ship was built about 890 AD, and was used to bury a Viking chieftain who died in or around 900 AD. It was discovered in 1880, also on a farm in Vestfold. In 1893, the seaworthiness of the design was proven when a copy was sailed from Bergen to the Chicago World's Fair. Among the remains found in the ship were horses, dogs and a peacock.
  • the Tune ship, discovered in Østfold in 1867, was built in about 900 AD. Although badly damaged, it is displayed to show construction details of ship building in Viking times.

    The Kon-tiki Museum - Oslo, Norway     Born in Larvik, Norway in 1914, Thor Heyerdahl gained fame for his voyages across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in boats built with prehistoric designs and materials. The Kon-Tiki Museum preserves these two boats:

  • the raft Kon-tiki, with which he proved in 1947 that the first Polynesians could have come from South America rather than Southeast Asia as had always been accepted, and
  • the papyrus Ra II (seen in the photo to the right), which he sailed from Morocco to Barbados in 1970.

        The links below will take you to each museum's Web site, for a great deal more information.

    Norsk Folkemuseum
    One of Europe's largest open-air museums, the Norwegian Folk Museum's Web site has information about their displays and exhibitions. Most of the site is only in Norwegian.

    Norsk Sjøfartsmuseum
    The Norwegian Maritime Museum - most of the site is in Norwegian only.

    A short Flash tour describes the famous polar exploration ship FRAM, the museum's centrepiece.

    The Viking Ship Museum's three burial ships, the best-preserved Viking ships in existence, are well presented on their Web site.

    Kon-Tiki Museet
    Thor Heyerdahl's papyrus boat Ra II and the raft Kon-tiki are preserved by this museum.

    Information on more than 800 museums and cultural events, in Norwegian.


    To Northern Museums Links

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