Viking ships lose out to Munch

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Two of Oslo’s most traditional tourist attractions, the Viking Ship Museum and Norwegian Folk Museum at Bygdøy, are reporting declines in their numbers of visitors. Summer crowds this year seem to be spending their time instead at the special exhibits celebrating the 150th birthday of famed Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

Debate continues over the future home of Norway's national treasure, its famed Viking ships. Pictured here, the Oseberg vessel excavated in Vestfold in 1904. PHOTO: Views and News

Visitors to the Viking Ship Museum have declined, even though travel guide TripAdvisor ranked it as Norway’s top museum earlier this month.. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported on Wednesday that around 255,000 persons have seen the ancient Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune ships so far this year, compared to 264,500 in the same period last year. That’s a decline of just over 3 percent, according to Anette Maartmann-Moe of Norway’s Museum of Cultural History (Kulturhistorisk museum), of which the Viking Ship Museum is a part.

At the adjacent Norwegian Folk Museum, visitor numbers fell 11.1 percent last year, to 230,000 persons. Museum officials blamed a downturn in the number of visitors coming to Norway from economically ailing Italy and Spain. “We know that Scandinavians aren’t as interested in the open-air museum as Europeans,” Museum Director Olav Aaraas told DN.

Visitors are still streaming, meanwhile, to the “Munch 150” exhibit that opened June 1st and encompasses special displays and events at the National Gallery, the University’s Aula, the Munch Museum and other venues associated with Munch, like the company canteen he decorated at the Freia Chocolate Factory and his studio at Ekely.

The existing Munch Museum at Tøyen. PHOTO: Views and News

Things are finally looking up for the Munch Museum, thanks to its highly popular and acclaimed exhibition celebrating Edvard Munch’s 150th birthday. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

It’s the main exhibits at the National Gallery and the Munch Museum, that are really packing in the visitors. The Munch Museum alone saw its visitor count nearly double in June, when “Munch 150” opened, with the 39,700 persons at the otherwise much-bashed museum on Oslo’s east side up 40 percent in June and July combined. City officials finally decided in May to build a new Munch Museum on Oslo’s eastern waterfront, after years of political debate.

When added to the visitors attending the exhibit of Munch’s earliest works at the National Gallery, visitor counts were over 100,000 by mid-July, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The dual exhibit is expected to set new attendance records well before it closes in mid-October.

The Munch Museum has also gotten a boost from its new sponsor, Flytoget, which has decorated its airport express trains with Munch's art. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The Munch Museum has also received a boost from its new sponsor, Flytoget, which has decorated its airport express trains with Munch’s art. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

It’s good news for the Munch Museum, which has been plagued by capacity, budget and labour conflicts. Now, several staff members at the museum who were told they’d be losing their jobs because of budget cuts, have been re-hired. The museum has secured new donations, from its long-time Japanese backer Idemitsu to the Bergesen Foundation, set up by the late shipowner Sigval Bergesen. Corporate sponsors have also come forward, including Flytoget (The Airport Express Train) and Statkraft.

The higher visitor numbers are also resulting in more revenues at the museum’s shop and café. Sales of Munch cake, Scream T-shirts and Madonna reflective strips, among other things, have amounted to more than NOK 6 million so far this year, reported DN.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund