Oslo’s Norwegian Museum of Cultural History is an open air museum with over 160 historical structures including the 13th century Gol Stave Church. Exhibits display traditional Norwegian folk art and folk clothing, and the culture of the Sami people, native to Sápmi, which is encompassed today by Norway, Sweden and parts of Finland and Russia.
Permanent exhibits at the Museum of Cultural History include the Folk Art exhibit, which presents collections of Norwegian Folk Art from the Middle Ages to present day. The chronological display shows carved wooden and rose painted household items and textiles. A Folk Dress exhibit displays the clothing worn by rural communities in the 19th century for farming, church going and special occasions. The exhibit is categorized by region to highlight the distinct regional identities that formed throughout the 1800’s.
An exhibit on the history of knitting traces the craft from the 1600’s to the present day. Norwegians were among the first to use this skill, which possibly dates back to the Vikings. The exhibit highlights traditional Norwegian knitting patterns, needles, yarn-hooks and chatelaines, and includes a look at knitting today.
A Church Art exhibit displays Norway’s largest collection of religious art from the Reformation of the 1500’s to the year 1800. The exhibit consists of painted wood figurines, baptismal fonts, pulpits and altar pieces and church organs. Work represents Norway’s master craftsmen of the period and includes a collection of painted portraits of Norwegian clergy and historic liturgical vestments.
A Sami Culture exhibit emphasizes the traditional way of life for the Sami people, including hunting, herding, trapping and fishing. A special display addresses the current conditions in Lapland, and the Alta controversy between 1970 and 1980, caused by Norway’s plans to build a hydroelectric plant that flooded the Sami village of Maze, forcibly relocating the Sami people and threatening their way of life, which relied on reindeer hunting and salmon fishing. The exhibit is paired with the Sami Settlement exhibit in the Open Air museum.
Buildings in the Open Air museum date back to the Middle Ages. Exhibits are split into the Countryside, which contains farms and buildings from rural Norway, Oldtown, with buildings from Oslo, Kragero and Brevik, and the Collections of King Oscar II, which were established in 1881 as the King’s summer residence, and eventually became the world’s first Open Air museum.
The highlight of the Open Air Museum is the Gol Stave Church from the year 1200. The building was rebuilt on the site for King Oscar II in 1880, using about 1/3 of the original materials from the Middle Age structure. Elaborate interior wooden carvings include dragon and plant motifs, carved heads and ancient runes, one of which reads “Kiss me, because I am so sad.”
History: Known in Norway as the Norsk Folkemuseum, the Museum of Cultural History is Norway’s largest. The museum was founded in 1864 by Hans Aall when Norwegian national pride was at a high, just after the country’s 1860 union with Sweden. The first exhibits opened on Oslo’s Bygdoy peninsula in 1901. Soon after, in 1907, the Open Air museum, which had been established in 1881, was incorporated into the Museum of Cultural History. The museum expanded indoor exhibition space in 1934, and established a rigorous research program, publishing its findings based on the museum’s collections and artifacts. Aall remained director until 1946.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The museum calendar is full of special events, educational programming, lectures and interactive workshops. Guests can feed the farm animals in the Open Air museum, learn to bake traditional “lefse,” try folk dancing and learn about traditional life on a rural Norwegian farm. Living History activities take place daily.
Annual events include June’s Midsummer Night’s Celebration. The family-friendly event offers live performances, food and parades in the Open Air museum. The annual Christmas Fair takes place over the first two weekends of December and offers concerts, performances, horse and carriage rides, a visit to Santa’s workshop, cooking demonstrations and more.
Past and Future Exhibits: A new exhibit opened in 2017 to honor the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The exhibit displays Christian III’s bible from 1550, the first to be printed in Danish, as well as portraits of Martin Luther and main contributors to the reformation, historic altar pieces and pulpits, and 14th through 16th century Protestant church objects, including an ornate bridal crown forged with images of saints.
Museumsveien 10, Bygdøy, 0287 Oslo, Norway, Phone: +47-22-12-37-00