Employees of the Ringve Museum were sifting through the rubble Tuesday morning of the historic building that’s been Norway’s premier showplace for centuries of art and antique musical instruments. A fire on Monday resulted in smoke and water damage, ashes and destruction.
“Right now it’s not looking good at all,” Torbjørn Mæhlumsveen, fire chief in Trondheim, told reporters after reviewing the damage with museum director Ivar Roger Hansen.
The facade of the building that dates from the 1700s was charred, stained by smoke and missing the planks that firefighters had to rip off, along with hacking holes into the roof and walls to reduce heat inside.
It could have been worse. “When you first have such a catastrophic event unfolding, I think we can say that things went fairly well,” Mæhlumsveen told state broadcaster NRK. Many of the museum’s antique pieces of furniture and musical instruments were carried out of the building and saved, the sprinkler system inside functioned as it should and some rooms were spared water damage.
Hansen and his staff were still trying to get an overview of the status of Ringve’s collections and the extent of the damage to the building where they were housed. Work was continuing to remove all items that had to be left inside the building while the fire raged for nearly two hours late Monday morning. The museum expects to call in help from abroad to further evaluate the damage and gain advice on repairs.
“We’re probably going to need people with special competence,” Hansen told NRK. The cause of the fire, meanwhile remained unclear.
Commentator Yngve Kvistad in newspaper VG wrote that while “hardly anything is irreplaceable in our time,” the items like hand-crafted string instruments from more than 300 years ago arguably are. A water-damaged piano from the 1700s, or one of Giuseppe Antonio Guarneris’ violins that bured up haven’t only been irreparably damaged “but their entire tone will be silenced and won’t ever return, at least not for another 350 years,” Kvistad wrote. “Norwegian and European music history has been seriously damaged after the fire at Ringve.”
‘Completely special place’
He noted how Ringve “has a completely special place in Norwegian history,” as the home where war hero Peter Wessel Tordenskiold grew up and not least because of Russian-born Victoria Bachke, who lived from 1896 to 1963 and also grew up at Ringve. She was the private collector who managed to make sure that unique, original instruments were sold, donated or lent to Ringve indefinitely, and she also established the Tordenskiold Museum at Ringve, just outside Trondheim.
One of its pianos had been used by Chopin and could still be played, meaning that special concerts at Ringve allowed audiences to hear music just as Chopin had when he sat at the instrument and composed it.
Police were keeping the museum under guard, along with its collections that hastily were moved outdoors. The museum was closed but Hansen hopes to reopen soon, noting that other buildings with other collections were not damaged. “We have a lot of work ahead of us,” he told NRK. He said it was “sad to come here today and see this,” as staff members still had to wipe away tears.