Posts Tagged With: museum island

Norwegian Folklore Museum, Oslo

We already parked at the Norwegian Folklore Museum on the museum island in Oslo last night, to be able to start our second day museum marathon as early as possible. Unfortunately the museum doesn’t open until 10am so we feel a little rushed as we have planned up to 4 museums for today.

I didn’t really know what to expect before entering the museum. I thought we might see some traditional Norwegian clothes and furniture but just like yesterday my expectations are being exceeded by far! Not just the content but the sheer size of it! You can easily spend all day here, it is more like a museums village!
We randomly start at the children’s section. Various toys are displayed here cutting right through Norwegian history. I personally remember most of these toys myself, as I grew up in Germany, not far from Norway.

The next section is an exhibition showing some features of daily life in Sami communities with emphasis on hunting, fishing and farming, as well as reindeer pastoralism.

Some facts about the Sami:
The Sami live in four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
The state of Norway was founded on the territory of two peoples: The Norwegian and the Sami.
There may be around 70.000 Sami, about 40.000 live in Norway.
Sami languages belong to the Ural-Altaic family of languages, like Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian, whereas Norwegian belongs to the Indo-European languages like English, German and Russian.
Norway has recognised the Sami as an indigenous people. The Sami had come to Norway long after the ancestors of the Norwegians.
The answer to the question of where the Sami come from, can only be speculated. Sami identity has probably evolved gradually over a long time span in the areas where the Sami have lived in historical times. The Finno-Ugric language heritage certainly suggests that they had slowly migrated from the east or south-east.

A large costume collection reflects the diversity of Sami culture. While the exhibition doesn’t attempt to tell the history of the Sami, some important historical events have been included, such as the carving up of the Samiland between the states or the devastation of the Second World War. A new part made in 2007 also describes recent development in politics, culture and society.

Before radios came into common use, many Sami children hardly knew a word of Norwegian when they started school. In the schools only Norwegian language was to be used. Many Sami children spent years before they could understand what the teacher said. From the 1950s Sami language was gradually introduced in some schools. Lack of textbooks and skilled teachers remained a hindrance for the use of Sami language in schools.

Originally hunting and gathering was the way of living for the Sami people. They moved in a yearly cycle between various dwelling-sites according to what resources were available in the different seasons.
In spring they would fish for cod in the fjord, gather eggs and down of seabirds.
In summer they fished for salmon in the river, gathered berries and cut shoe-grass.
In autumn they hunted wild reindeer and fowl and fished in rivers and lakes.
In winter they trapped fur animals and grouse, and went ice fishing on frozen lakes.

Until the second World War they lived in turf and wooden huts or in tents. Annual markets were important events to sell hides and furs, meat and fish for money or in exchange for goods such as flour, sugar, salt, cloth and utensils. Market days were also occasions to meet friends and to exchange news.

Events from outside changed life of the East Sami. In 1826 their land was divided between Norway and Russia, which then included Finland. The Neiden Sami became Norwegian citizens but their autumn and winter sites had become Finnish territory. Norwegian and Finnish colonists moved in and the population grew. The Sami became a small and almost invisible minority.
Further east too, things went bad for the Sami. In the Soviet Union they were forced to move from their old areas. During the wars between Finland and the Soviet Union 1939-1944, the core areas of the East Sami became a battleground and Finland had to cede them to the Soviet Union. The Sami had to flee. An ancient way of living came to an end.

Today the Sami are torn between two worlds. Many have moved to the bigger cities and some have consciously put their Sami history behind them, as they have painful memories of the times when Sami identity was looked down upon and ridiculed. There are several thousand Sami living in Oslo today but only few choose Sami education for their children. Others still show their Sami background by wearing traditional Sami costumes on feast days and there is also a Sami house in Oslo (Akersgata 34) where Sami and those who are interested in Sami culture can drop by for a cup coffee and a chat on Saturdays.

We continue on to the outside area of the museum. Here you can try and catch a wooden reindeer with a lasso and have a look at Sami huts and tents.
Now we realise that the museum has built a whole village with replicas of houses, sheds, gardens and farms including animals such as horses, pigs, cows, sheep and chicken. The village is sectioned into Norwegian areas such as the Telemark, Ostland or the Hallingdal valley and cover a time span between the 16th and 20th century.
Inside the old wooden houses there is no electricity and the small windows only let little light inside.

The more modern farm houses and shops in the Ostland had electricity. The first lightbulb in Norway was lit in Fredrikstad, Ostfold in 1897.

The Stave Church in the museum village was originally built in Gol in 1200 and relocated here in 1884:

In the next part of the museum, we take a journey through the rooms of the 19th century upper class Norwegian family:

The museum also shows a collection of Norwegian folk art up to the middle of the 1800s, when the tradition was strong and vibrant.
It was in around 1870, when the decorated articles farmers used in their everyday lives, began to be identified as “art”. The exuberant decoration – colourful rosemaling, robust wood carving and richly detailed woven textiles – was given the name “folk art”. This was a new concept along with folk poetry and folk music and was useful in building a cultural identity for the new nation.
The exhibition also displays work from the period of 1850 to 1920, which in many ways represented a break in tradition and reflects trends that are still apparent today.

 

In the last part of the exhibition we get to see a photo collection of some Norwegian traditional folklore costumes:

After three hours in the Norwegian Folklore Museum, we rush to the next museum, only to realise days after, that we still have missed parts of the museum. As I already mentioned, you can easily spend a whole day here, exploring most, if not all, aspects of Norwegian life since 1500.
Without the Oslo Pass, this museum is 100NOK.

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Oslo Pass, Holmenkollen Ski and Viking Ship Museum

We urgently need to charge our video camera before going anywhere! We hope to find an electricity socket at the tourist information near the train station and indeed, we are lucky! So we spend an hour here, reading through the various options of what to do in Oslo. Amazingly Oslo has 52 museums and since we already checked out the city on our bicycles yesterday, we are keen to check out some museums today. The big question is: To get the Oslo Pass or not to get the Oslo Pass?! The The 24hr Oslo Pass is 270NOK (57EUR or about $70) per person and will give you free entry to most museums, free parking in the city council car parks and free public transport, including the ferry to the museum island. Looking at it realistically, how many museums can you visit in 24 hours when the opening times are only between 11am and 6pm? We decide we want to visit at least 4 museums, ideally 6!

– Holmenkollen Ski Museum = 110 NOK (This requires a 15min journey with the subway)
– Viking ship Museum – 60 NOK
– Norwegian Folklore Museum – 100 NOK
– FRAM Museum – 80 NOK
– Kon Tiki Museum – 70 NOK
– Maritime Museum – 60 NOK

Should be do-able, shouldn’t it? We decide for the Oslo Pass and jump on the subway number 1 going to Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Ski Jump. We stamp the Oslo pass at the train station but later realise we did so in the wrong area. Oops. The subway soon becomes a normal train, as we exit the underground train network and now drive up higher and higher, soon overlooking all of Oslo and the fjords.
Of course the rain begins to pour down once we arrive at Holmenkollen but gladly we brought a rain jacket and a frog green rain poncho. Firstly we discover the ski simulator which takes you onto the ski jump and the downhill ski track, pretending to reach more than 100km/h. This is an extra 60NOK per person but we have to give it a try. Now, having done it, I guess it was ok but it’s difficult to really simulate ski jumping!
Now the ski museum: We enter, show our Oslo cards and are permitted in without any problems (even though there is supposed to be a start date and time on the Oslo pass but the space is still blank). So basically the 24hr valid time hasn’t started yet.
The museum exceeds all my expectations! I thought we may see some old skis from the 50ies and a few photos of ski jumping but instead the museum’s story starts with Roald Amundsen’s journey to the south pole. One of his dogs is displayed here, stuffed obviously.

We get to see some of their equipment but mainly of course the skis and sleds. Just around the corner I find a man dressed in reindeer fur holding up his skis – 4000 years ago! This man belongs to the Sami culture. Original skis from 600AD or skis that are beautifully decorated with ornaments from the 1890’s are being displayed. Until about 1890, skiers only used one ski pole for breaking and balance and often the end would have another function. It could have been in the shape of a spear for hunting bears, a shovel or even a drinking cup.
There are stuffed animals like this very large elk and some of the photos are quite amusing; one showing two laughing women in their early 20th century dresses and on skis all covered in snow, another one showing a little 2 year old boy on his skis and with the question: Are Norwegians born with skis on?

Another highlight is the spectacular preview of the documentary film “Being There” made by producer Filip Christensen (Field Productions). It shows an amazing view (mostly from the helicopter) of the worlds best free skiers climbing and skiing down mountains in the fantastic Norwegian landscape. There are no words to describe this footage, you need to see it for yourself. As soon as we are getting wireless internet, we will download the full movie from iTunes. I also love the soundtrack!

From inside the museum you can take an elevator up to the top of the ski jump and get a 360 degree view over Oslo, fjords and forests. Very nice!
Eventually we are coming down to the souvenir store where Logan does not only pic up a Viking T-shirt and some Norway stickers, he also shows his love for Norway by trying on a I-glitterheart-Norway cap, as well as hugging the “little teddy bear” and the pretty troll girl.


Having spent 3 hours at the Holmenkollen Ski Museum, we are going back to the train station, finally stamping our Oslo Ticket properly.

Off to the Viking Ship Museum!

We get back to the city centre, pick up our bicycles and ride to the port. From there we catch the free (with the Oslo Pass) ferry to the museum island and walk up the road to the Viking Ship Museum. We only have about an hour until the museum closes.

The Viking Age lasted from about 800 – 1050AD. During this period the Norseman were the lords of the sea. They were excellent shipwrights and sailors. Their ships were fast, well built and suitable for long sea voyages which enabled them to go on journeys in most of the northern hemisphere. From Scandinavia the Vikings sailed west over the North Sea to the British Isles and then over the Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland and North America. Some sailed south down the coast of Europe and entered the Mediterranean, while others sailed east down the great rivers of Russia to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
At the beginning of the Viking Age Norway consisted of a number of smaller chiefdoms, but was later gradually united under a single king. Viking society was divided into classes with great economic and social differences between them. The ships exhibited in the museum were built for members of the upper class. The farmers formed the backbone of the society; they were free men with the right to bear arms and to participate in meetings of the “ting”, or assembly. The slaves were the lowest rank in society; they were the property of their owners and had no legal rights. Many of them were foreigners who had been taken prisoner on a raid.
Since the Vikings came from Scandinavia, from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, they had to adopt to a great variation in their landscape, climate and agricultural conditions. In good farming country, crops and animal husbandry were the main means of livelihood, while in other parts people relied more on hunting and fishing which were profitable activities. Furs, bird down, and walrus ivory were highly prized commodities in the rest of Europe. Considerable quantities of iron were also produced in the Norwegian mountain hamlets and found a market both at home and abroad.
The Norsemen plundered churches, monasteries and even whole towns but plunder and conquest weren’t the only reasons why the Vikings took to the seas. Many of them journeyed abroad in order to trade, and others to find new country in which to settle. The Vikings were also merchants, selling their goods in towns and market places, and established trading colonies in Ireland and Russia. Many Norsemen settled down as farmers in the lands they had invaded, such as Iceland or Greenland and they were the first Europeans in North America.
In the Viking age it was customary to bury the dead in boats. In the ships exhibited here at the museum, the dead were placed in a burial chamber which was erected in the stern of the ship. They were buried with a good supply of food and drinks, horses and dogs, and both useful and decorative objects. When the ships were excavated, the graves were found to have been robbed and the jewellery, weapons, gold and silver were no longer there. The objects made of wood and cloth were well preserved, because the ships had been buried in blue clay and covered with stones, clay and turf.

Upon entry our view falls onto the huge and well preserved viking ship: The Oseberg Ship.
The Oseberg ship was found in a large burial mound on the Oseberg farm in Vestfold and excavated in 1904. The ship was built some time between 813-829 AD, but was later used as a grave ship for a woman of high rank who died in 834AD. The 22 meter long ship was built of oak and the number of oar holes indicate that the ship was rowed by a crew of 30 men.

The second Viking ship, the Gokstad Ship, was found in a large burial mound on the Gokstad farm in Vestfold and excavated in 1880. It was built around 890AD and later used as a grave ship for a Viking chieftain; the body lay in a grave chamber built of horizontal timber logs. This ship was 24m long with room for 32 oarsmen. It is the largest of the Viking ships on display and also the most robust. While the Oseberg ship was a luxury pleasure craft, the Gokstad was a sturdy and practical vessel, capable of sailing the high seas.

There’s also a third Viking ship in the museum, the Tune Ship. It was found on the Haugen-Hof in Ostfold and excavated in 1867. It was also built around 900AD but due to poor preservation conditions the grave gifts have not survived and the ship has has been severely damaged.

The skills of the Viking shipwrights were based on long and solid experience. They did not use plans or drawings but instead took measurements by eye. The sails were made of woollen cloth and it required almost as much work as the it did to build the ship. The Gokstad ship’s sail measured 110sqm. The origins of Norse ship-building can be traced back all the way to the 4th century BC. These traditions are still alive in Norway today.

In the back wing of the museum we find the grave gifts and other objects such as wooden carts, wooden animal heads, sleds, “camping equipment” and more. Everything made from wood is decorated with wave, animal and plant ornaments.

At the end we also have a quick look at the souvenir shop of course, where they sell books and dvd’s about vikings, but also viking jewellery. Most of it is quite expensive but Logan get’s himself a silver ring with viking ornaments on it for only about 6 Euros.

Museum Day 1 is over, we continue tomorrow!

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