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A world of peace in Oslo

MUSEUM GUIDE: Norway’s capital is packed with museums, and they’re often popping up in the news. We’re following that news, and aim to focus regularly on a specific museum or attraction worthy of a visit.
THIS WEEK: The Nobel Peace Center (Nobels Fredssenter) in Oslo, a timely place to visit with the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony taking place on Friday.

The Nobel Peace Center opened just a few years ago, and is dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize and its winners. PHOTO: Isabel Coderre

December 10, also known as Nobel Prize Day, is a special day in Oslo. Annually on this day, the Nobel prizes in Peace, Chemistry, Physics, Literature, and Physiology/Medicine are awarded. These prestigious prizes were created by wealthy Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel in the year before his death on December 10, 1896, and have been awarded on that day since 1901.

While four of the prizes are managed by Swedish committees, the Nobel Peace Prize falls under the purview of a Norwegian committee for historical reasons. The prizes were established at a time when Norway and Sweden were united under a single monarch, thus Alfred Nobel shared the responsibility for the prizes with Norway by declaring that a Norwegian committee should manage the Peace Prize. Although the union between the two countries was dissolved in 1905, the Norwegian committee retained authority over the prize. The Peace Prize has always been awarded in Oslo – to a total of 98 individuals and 23 organizations.

Jailed Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. PHOTO: VOA

Two months ago it was announced that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner was Liu Xiaobo for his “struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” mainly by way of advocating for democratic reform. Chinese officials do not view Liu’s work as a struggle for human rights, but rather as criminal activity aimed at destabilizing the country and hindering its peaceful development. They have shown their dismay over the prize being awarded to Liu by cancelling or postponing meetings with Norwegian officials and by discouraging ambassadors in Norway from attending the award ceremony. Liu is currently in jail for “inciting subversion of state power” and neither he nor any of his family members will be allowed to travel to Oslo to give the traditional Nobel laureate lecture, to accept the prize, and to open an exhibit dedicated to him.

Despite this, the award ceremony will proceed and the Nobel Peace Center (Nobel Fredssenter) has also moved forward with mounting the annual winner’s exhibit. Those without a ticket to the ceremony at nearby Oslo City Hall can watch it on a screen inside the Nobel Peace Center  this Friday at 1pm. On Sunday December 12, the exhibit about Liu Xiaobo entitled “I have no enemies” will open.

The exhibit will give insight into the laureate’s life and will provide a perspective on today’s China through a photo series. It’s an annual tradition that the Nobel Peace Center waives its admission fee from the day the exhibit opens until January 2 (but the exhibit about Liu will remain open until April 25).

Highlighting the history of the prize
The Nobel Peace Center also offers its permanent exhibit on the history of the Peace Prize itself and presents exhibits year-round, currently featuring one of only two Norwegians who have won the Nobel Peace Prize: Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen won the prize in 1922 for helping refugees and prisoners of war and for providing food to starving people. The exhibit is designed for children as it contains interactive games, but it also presents factual information of interest to adults.

The permanent exhibits include The Nobel Field, The Nobel Chamber, and the Wall Papers. The Nobel Field is a dark room with hundreds of thin, mesmerizing tubes of light stretching out of the ground, with a mini computer perched on top. The small screens display a portrait of a given laureate, information about him or her, and excerpts from their laureate lecture.

The next exhibit, The Nobel Chamber, consists of an interactive book presenting the life of Alfred Nobel. One interesting but tragic fact that can be found in the book is that Nobel’s brother died at age 21 in an explosion caused by one of Alfred’s nitroglycerin experiments, and four of his other siblings died in infancy.

More interactivity
The final permanent exhibit is the Wall Papers, which is actually a wall of computers containing a vast amount of information and photos about Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the laureates. Visitors navigate through the information by moving large sliders between the computers, which operate together as well as independently to display the articles and photos.

On the main level of the Nobel Peace Center, a real Peace Prize medal is on display. It is on loan from the family of the other Norwegian Peace Prize winner – Christian Lous Lange. Lange and a Swede shared the award in 1921 for their efforts to promote international cooperation.

The peace center also offers a popular gift shop featuring peace-oriented items from around the world, and its adjacent restaurant — appropriately named “Alfred” — has won rave reviews for its relatively reasonable gourmet menus. It’s open for lunch and dinner.

The Nobel Peace Center (Nobels Fredssenter) (external link)
Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm.
Location: Rådhusplassen, near Oslo City Hall and Aker Brygge. Take #12 trikk to Aker Brygge, or take the trikk, bus, or T-bane to National Theater and walk for five minutes towards the harbour.
Admission: Free from December 12, 2010 to January 2, 2011. Normally NOK 80 for adults, NOK 55 for students and seniors, and free for youth under 16 years old.


Oslo Jewish Museum (Jødisk Museum i Oslo)
Oslo City Museum (Bymuseet)
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Ibsen Museum
The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet)
The National Gallery
Norsk Folkemuseum (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)
The Viking Ship Museum
Summertime at The Munch Museum
The Natural History Museum – Botanical Gardens
The National Museum – Architecture
The Kon-Tiki Museum
The Maritime Museum
Oscarsborg Fortress
The Polar Ship Fram Museum
“Be a tourist in your own town”

Views and News from Norway/Isabel Coderre
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