Ida Irene Bergstrøm, Science Norway, October 8, 2019
“I hope they don’t give us any new viking ships to house”, said archaeologist Ellen Marie Næss to the magazine Forskerforum last year.
A new viking ship had just been found in Østfold.
The employees at the Viking Ship museum in Bygdøy, Oslo, were still getting over the shock of not being granted money in the National Budget for 2019, to start the process of rehabilitating and rebuilding their museum. They had been sounding the alarms over the condition of the ships for years.
“Currently, the conditions for preserving these ships are probably better underground than here at the Viking Ship Museum”, Næss said.
This is a commitment
A year later, 35 million kroner – roughly 3,8 million USD – is finally on the table. Not the biggest sum of money, but Director of the museum Håkon Glørstad is satisfied.
“35 million kroner is the sum of money that the financial department has calculated we need in order to work out the details of this project. For us, the most important thing here is that the building grant is a commitment to the entire project as such – and for this, we will need around 2 billion kroner (nearly 219 million USD)”, he writes in an email to forskning.no.
Vibrations, dust and quick fixes
It has been known for a long time that the conditions of the Viking ship museum have been less than ideal, to put it mildly.
When the most recent part of the museum was built in 1956, the goal was to spend as little money as possible.
“This is costing us greatly today”, said Museum Director Håkon Glørstad to newspaper Uniforum last year.
The Viking ship museum is Norway’s best visited museum with over half a million visitors per year. But these visitors also pose a challenge – every time somebody steps on the museum floor, the building, the ships and all the items vibrate.
The floor is being upheld with improvised methods. One of the world’s greatest cultural heritages sits on a floor being held up by steel supports.
In addition to the problems with vibrating floors, the museums indoor air quality is poor, and there are problems with dust.
World’s largest Viking ship is cracking
Earlier this year, the Gokstadship had to be supported by six new supports. The ship had begun to crack, and without the extra support it might have collapsed.
The museum of Cultural History, of which the Viking Ship Museum is part, wrote an article this summer titled “The Gokstad Viking ship is sinking”.
“A recent 3D scan has revealed disturbing movements”, the museum wrote. Director Glørstad was quoted as saying that quick fixes and temporary solutions might just move the problems around rather than solve them.
The Gokstad ship is the world’s largest Viking ship. It is made out of oak, has 16 oars, and is just over 23 meters long. It was built at the end of the 9th century and discovered in Sandefjord in 1880. Gokstad has been on public display since 1932.
The museum also houses the Oseberg Viking Ship, and the Tune Viking Ship.
All three ships once sailed the oceans filled with Vikings but ended their sailingcareers in burial rituals for their wealthy owners. In the burial mounds, archaeologists have also found artifacts and wood carvings that can be seen at the museum.
Building starts next year
The new museum will be three times as large as the current building.
A major challenge in the process will be how to safely move the objects during and after the process.
Building is expected to start next year, in 2020, and to be finished before the end of 2025.