Plans laid for new Viking ships museum

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Norway’s Ministry of Education has directed state building agency Statsbygg to start planning a new and expanded Viking Ships Museum on Oslo’s Bygdøy peninsula. The University of Oslo already lays claim to the largest collection of Viking ships and other Viking treasures in the world.

Norway's Viking ships, excavated after nearly a thousand years, may stay berthed at Bygdøy. PHOTO: Views and News

Norway’s Viking ships, excavated after nearly a thousand years, will stay berthed at Bygdøy, with an expanded museum built around them. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The university and city officials have long seen a need for a larger museum to house the Norwegian Viking ships excavated in Vestfold, southwest of Oslo, in the late 1800s. Initial plans called for construction of a new museum at Bjørvika on Oslo’s eastern harbour, where the city’s initial Viking settlement was located and where massive waterfront redevelopment is now underway.

The idea of consolidating several cultural attractions at Bjørvika stranded, however, over serious concerns that the Viking ships themselves are too fragile to move. After several years of debate, government officials went along with recommendations from experts that it would be too risky to relocate the famed Oseberg and Gokstad ships especially.

The future of the Viking Ships Museum is also unclear. PHOTO: Views and News

The existing Viking Ships Museum on Oslo’s Bygdøy peninsula stands to be improved and expanded. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Now the state has decided to improve and expand the site of the existing museum, which lies adjacent to the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum. Plans include relocation of many items in the university’s Viking collection from their current home at the Museum of Cultural History in downtown Oslo to an expanded Viking Ships Museum on Bygdøy that will be three times its current size.

“We also have a research and educational organization of high international standard, and therefore want to create the best Viking museum in the world,” museum director Håkon Glørstad told newspaper Aftenposten.

Plans call for a new museum covering 12,000 square meters, of which 9,000 square meters will be newly built around the existing museum, which was designed by legendary Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg. It will remain a central part of a new “architectural solution” for a consolidation of the Viking collections, Glørstad said.

Statsbygg will call for bids for the project this autumn, and is now working on a general design and bid specifications. The project remains subject to final political approval.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund