Views and News’ Museum Guide

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Norway’s capital is packed with museums, and they’re often popping up in the news. We intend to follow that news, and focus every week this spring on a specific museum worthy of a visit.

THIS WEEK: The Kon-Tiki Museum, where a new exhibit on his Ra expedition opens April 28.

Thor Heyerdahl's 'Kon-Tiki' expedition made him one of the most famous Norwegians ever. PHOTO: Kon-Tiki Museum

It’s been more than 60 years since Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl became an international celebrity with his famed Kon-Tiki expedition. The museum housing his famous papyrus raft still attracts thousands of visitors every year, and this year it’s celebrating the 40th anniversary of Heyerdahl’s Ra expeditions.

Located just across the street from the Polar Ship Fram Museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum completes a trio of tributes to Norway’s nautical heritage. And all three can be reached by a short and scenic ferry ride from the plaza in front of Oslo’s City Hall.

The Kon-Tiki Museum is located next door to the Maritime and Polar Ship Fram museums. PHOTO: Views and News

While the Kon-Tiki is the main attraction at the museum, it also contains exhibits and information about all of Heyerdahl’s other expeditions, including Fatu-Hiva in 1937-38, Galapagos in 1952-53, his trips to Easter Island and the Ra expeditions in 1969 and 1970. Heyerdahl was active until his death in 2002 and passionate about sharing his knowledge and ideas.

Thor Heyerdahl in action. PHOTO: Kon-Tiki Museum

The museum was set up to do just that and it’s still run by his research foundation (Thor Heyerdahls Forskningsstiftelse) with his oldest son, Thor Heyerdahl Jr, at the helm. He recently threatened to move the entire museum to Heyerdahl’s hometown of Larvik, about a two-hour drive south of Oslo, if the state goes ahead with a controversial plan to move the nearby Viking Ships Museum to a new site on Oslo’s eastern waterfront. The younger Heyerdahl wants it to stay where it is.

New Ra exhibit opening April 28
Ironically enough, the museum got a burst of new life after the senior Heyerdahl died, when visitors suddenly started flocking to the museum on Oslo’s Bygdøy Peninsula. New exhibits are opening often, and from April 28 the focus will be on Heyerdahl’s Ra expeditions and his early concern for the environment.

The Ra expeditions in 1969 and 1970 collected evidence of pollution on the seas, along with trying to prove Heyerdahl’s theory that rafts may have crossed the Atlantic long before Columbus. Both Ra expeditions, and their environmental research, will be highlighted in the new exhibit that will run through October.

The museum also is behind what it calls “a unique journey” this fall tracing Thor Heyerdahl’s routes to South America and Easter Island. The 21-day trip from Oslo has Chile, Bolivia and Peru on the itinerary plus four days on Easter Island. Thor Heyerdahl Jr, chairman of the Kon-Tiki Museum, claims he’s the first to have signed on for the tour, which also will offer an optional eight days on the Galapogas Islands.

It’s been 40 years since Ra II sailed and Heyerdahl’s grandson Olav already has been sailing on a memorial expedition of sorts this year called the Plastiki. It’s aboard a catamaran made entirely of recycled plastic bottles and its goal also is to draw attention to recycling and pollution.

Interest in Thor Heyerdahl and his work remains high, with a major new film set to dramatize the Kon-Tiki expedition, nearly 50 years after Heyerdahl’s own documentary on the voyage won an Academy Award. Special events at the museum also draw crowds throughout the year and the museum can also be rented in the evenings for private parties and gatherings.

The Kon-Tiki Museum
www.kon-tiki.no (external link)
Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm (9:30am-5:30pm from June 1 to Aug 31)
Admission price: Adults NOK 60, students and retirees NOK 40, children NOK 25.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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