Tradition lives on at Folkemuseum

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MUSEUM GUIDE: Norway’s capital is full of museums, and they’re often 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 Norsk Folkemuseum
, a lively place in the summer that’s full of tradition and offers an historic glimpse of the entire country on its sprawling grounds at Bygdøy.

Homes relocated from Norway's Østerdal region. PHOTO: Isabel Coderre

The Norsk Folkemuseum is an institution in Oslo. Since it is largely an outdoor museum, a visit in the summer naturally promises a different experience from a visit in the winter.

The Folkemuseum is dedicated to demonstrating what life in Norway was like centuries ago and up to today. Like a regular museum it has indoor exhibitions, and a current one has spurred widespread press coverage: Unique photos taken in color of Norwegians around the country in 1910. Most photographs from the time are in black and white, but French financier Albert Kahn traveled from Oslo to the mountains using autokromer, the world’s first functioning technique for color photographs. The result is Norge i farger 1910 (Norway in color, 1910) from the Musée Albert-Kahn in Boulogne-Billancourt outside Paris. It opened last month and shows images of a newly sovereign Norway emerging from its rural past into an industrial era, not least because Kahn was involved in the financing of early firms like Norsk Hydro in addition to his passion for photography.

Outdoor highlights
The Folkemuseum’s highlight, though, is its outdoor exhibits that consist of authentic wooden buildings that have been relocated from different regions of Norway. The outdoor portion of the Folkemuseum is organized based on those regions, and as such, strolling through the expansive museum grounds is like taking a country-wide trip back in time.

Many of the buildings at the Folkemuseum are farmhouses depicting rural Norwegian life. For the most part the farmsteads are from the pre-industrial agricultural era, but one farm (from Trøndelag) dates back to just the mid-1900s and depicts agricultural modernization. Visiting these rural areas at the Folkemuseum in the summer promises that farm animals will be lazing about in the pastures, with a backdrop of bright green foliage and pretty flowers.

Gamlebyen, or "The Old Town", at the Folkemuseum. PHOTO: Isabel Coderre

A different area of the Open-Air Museum depicts urban life in Norway and is called Gamlebyen (The Old Town). It contains commercial places such as a Vinmonopolet state liquor store, a pharmacy, a bank, and a grocery store, some of which are open for business. Gamlebyen also contains a reconstructed apartment building that had been located at Wessels gate 15 but was moved in 1999. Inside the apartment building there are exhibitions about life and housing in Norway, and visitors can take a look at reproduced typical apartments from the early- to late 20th century.

For those visitors interested in more than just observing the many buildings in the “open-air museum,” a helpful tip is to buy a pamphlet at the ticket desk that costs NOK 10. The buildings are numbered, and the pamphlet provides details about every single one of the relocated buildings. Information about the buildings is not available otherwise, besides the year they were built.

There are a few differences between a summer and a winter visit to the Folkemuseum. In the summer visitors can expect to come across people in traditional Norwegian dress talking about life in their region, or perhaps playing a folk song on an antique musical instrument. The traditional Norwegian flatbread called lefse is also made daily in the summer and can be sampled. On weekdays, the quaint old schoolhouse in the open-air portion that is empty in the winter is filled with children attending summer school. On Sundays, visitors can attend folk dance performances.

The Gol Stave Church, which will undergo restorations in the fall. PHOTO: Isabel Coderre

While there are benefits to having an outdoor museum, there are also detriments. The Norwegian climate takes its toll on the old historic buildings and this fall one of the Folkemuseum’s main attractions will be closed for restoration: the Gol Stave Church. The 700-year old stave church was moved to the Folkemuseum from Gol in 1884, and the biggest part of the restoration will be replacing its wooden roof. The restoration will begin after the summer season, as of September 15, 2011, and during the process visitors will be able to observe the work being done but will not be permitted inside.

Norsk Folkemuseum (external link)
Open: From May 15 to September 14, open every day 10am-6pm. Shorter hours the rest of the year.
Location: Museumsveien 10 on Bygdøy. Take ferry #91 to “Dronningen” then follow the signs to the museum, or take bus #30 to “Folkemuseet”.
Admission: Adults NOK 100, students and elderly NOK 75. Parents plus children can buy a family ticket for NOK 200. Otherwise, children six years old and up pay NOK 25, and children under six enter for free.


Bogstad Gård
National Museum – Architecture
Historical Museum (Historisk museum)
The Norwegian Museum of Science, Technology, Industry and Medicine (Norsk Teknisk Museum)
Ski Museum at Holmenkollen
Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (HL-senteret)
Nobel Peace Center
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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