At a time when some Oslo museums are struggling from a lack of public funding, and controversy reigns over the costs and turbulence of major museum moving plans, Members of Parliament are going along with royal wishes for a new museum to house palace treasures.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that there’s “broad political agreement” within the Parliament (Stortinget) to create a new museum for what’s been described as an “enormous” collection of royal belongings. Items range from a horse-drawn carriage and elaborate sleds to monogrammed bathroom accessories once used by Queen Maud, the British princess who married a Danish prince and then became Norway’s first queen in modern times.
Queen Sonja and King Harald launched efforts in 2002 to get all their royal belongings registered. Three art historians, a project leader and two assistants have been working to do just that, sorting and logging as many as 200,000 items stored in both the Royal Palace in Oslo and at other royal properties around the country.
Huge photo archive, too
When the vast archives of royal photos are taken into account, the number of items approaches 450,000, making the photo registration a huge project in itself, according to Aftenposten.
Most of the objects, many of them gifts to various members of the royal family over the past hundred years, are stored away and have remained out of public view.
With the collection of royal belongings bound to keep growing, the king and queen and have made it clear they’d like to move the items out of storage and put as many of them as possible on display in a new royal museum, currently being called Slottsmuseum (Palace Museum).
Laying the groundwork
An Aftenposten story on the museum plans in late October publicized the project and led to a formal request by the opposition parties in Parliament this week that the government “evaluate the possibility to set up an exhibit and a possible museum that can make the Palace’s many stored cultural treasures accessible for the public.” The government already has signaled support for the museum project as well.
Per-Kristian Foss of the Conservative Party, a former finance minister, said that even though no specific budget allocations have been aired as yet, “when such a proposal as this is put forward, it means the money will come eventually.”
A new museum is likely to be located near the Royal Palace in downtown Oslo, where several existing museums are to be vacated in coming years because of major moving plans. Funding will likely be an issue, not least since budget allocations for some existing museums have been so threadbare in recent years that the Norwegian Maritime Museum, for example, announced late last week that it will have to close to the public next year.
It all boils down to political priorities, and the Royal Palace has a record of generally getting what it wants. Many think the Slottsmuseum will also be a hit with the public, who likely will be asked to pay to view the royal collections. The royals currently charge relatively stiff admission fees to visit the Royal Palace during summer when they’re not living there, and other royal properties like Oscarshall on Bygdøy. Most other major museums in Oslo are free.