Viking ships likely to stay put

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Plans to move Norway’s national treasure, the Viking ships Oseberg and Gokstad , to a new museum on Oslo’s eastern waterfront probably won’t sail. A new report advises against the move, to preserve both the ships and public funds.

If any new museum is to be built, the report advises that it be built where the Viking ships are now, on the Bygdøy Peninsula in Oslo. The idea is to combine the current Viking Ships Museum with an expanded museum of cultural history (Kulturhistorisk Museum) , now located downtown.

Museum officials and the University of Oslo, which formally owns the museum, both wanted to build a new museum on the waterfront at Bjørvika, near the new Opera House and the planned Munch Museum and city library. The new, expanded museum would house the ships and other assorted Viking treasures now on exhibit at Bygdøy along with the collections from the city museum.

Opponents feared the ships, which date from the years 815 and 900AD, would not tolerate a move and might crumble to dust.

The external report ordered by state officials was conducted by consulting firm Metier and Møreførskning. It was delivered to Tora Aasland, state minister for higher education, Monday afternoon.

Ole Petter Ottersen, dean of the university, said he was surprised by the report’s conclusion. University and museum officials have invested years of time and money already planning for a consolidation and move to Bjørvika, viewing it as the best long-term solution.

The museum’s collections have been built up over 200 years and represent the country’s best offering of items from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, including coins, runic stones, church art and items found during archaeological digs at Viking graves and settlements.

The report’s conclusions are expected to form the basis for a decision on the matter, meaning a move now seems unlikely. Residents of Bygdøy, meanwhile, were quick to protest any plans for a bigger, consolidated museum in an area already subject to traffic congestion in the tourist season.