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08.03.2020

Bergen Maritime Museum

Would you like to know more about why Bergen is a maritime city and why Norway is a seafaring nation? Then you should visit the Bergen Maritime Museum! Norway is the gateway to the North and named after the coastline and sea route that have influenced life and culture for thousands of years. The Bergen Maritime Museum gives you an excellent opportunity to explore one of the world’s leading maritime nations.

Ancient shipping history

This part of the exhibition deals with Norwegian and particularly western Norwegian maritime history from ancient times until the middle ages. From this period we know of many ship findings in Norway. At the museum you can see several original ship findings and models, including from the Halsnøy boat dated from the period 390-535 AD, the Kvalsund ship from the eighth century AD, in addition to models of the well-known Viking era-findings (800-1050), Oseberg and Gokstad.

1600-1700s

During the middle ages the Hanseatic League took control of trade in Northern Europe. Not until the seventeenth century was Norway once again in position to rebuild its fleet. The Norwegian merchant fleet continued to prosper during the eighteenth century, and Norwegian shipping sailed to more and more distant waters. This period is well represented in the museum’s collections, with various ship models, maps and original objects. A notable event during this period was the “Battle of Vågen”, between Dutch and English vessels in Bergen harbour. This part of the exhibition includes ship ornaments and one of the cannons that were used during the Battle.

The sailing ship era

The nineteenth century is commonly referred to as the golden age of sailing vessels. This is one of the best represented periods in the museums collections. The golden age of sailing vessels, during the nineteenth century, is one of the best represented periods in the museum’s collections. Apart from models and pictures of the most common ship types, this part of the exhibition sheds light on sailors daily lives at sea. For many young Norwegians, embarking on a seafaring career was an obvious choice. Rope work, ship in a bottle, drawing and painting were common activities among sailors during this period. The museum has a number of such items displayed in the exhibition.

Training ships

When the training ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2004, the museum renewed and extended its collections on training ships with a range of new material from “Statsraaden”, as the vessel is well-known among locals in Bergen. A new temporary exhibition was opened in connection with the vessel’s 100th anniversary in 2014. The Statsraad Lehmkuhl was transferred to Bergen in 1923, and was for many years a welcome education facility for youth seeking a career at sea. Today the Statsraad Lehmkuhl is preservation-worthy, and is in use virtually all-year round. A deck house from «Statsraaden» has been exhibited at the museum since 1999, and in front of it a section of the ship’s deck has been reconstructed with a boom, sail and shroud. The exhibition also includes a dinghy from the «Statsraaden», exhibited between davits from the vessel.

Traditional inshore craft

Small boats and freighters used along the coast and into the fjords, on lakes and rivers, are called inshore craft. These originate from the period prior to the Viking Age. The museum has a considerable collection of such boat models from western and northern Norway. In addition, the collections include several full-size boats.

Wooden shipbuilding

Wooden shipbuilding in the Bergen area has long traditions. However, it was not until 1784 that the first permanent wooden shipyard was established. More wooden shipyards followed and their importance peaked during the period 1850-1880. The exhibition includes tools from these shipyards, part of an original capstan and a model that shows careenage at the Nyhavn shipyard at Sandviken.

Steamers

The paddle steamer SS Constitutionen was Norway’s first steamer in 1826, but it took considerable time before Norway had a steamship fleet of any significance. Bergen was in the forefront in the transition from sail to steam in Norway. The Bergen Steamship Company was established in 1851 as Norway’s first privately owned steamship company and started a route from Bergen to Hamburg with the paddle steamer SS Bergen. In 1883, Bergen’s steamship fleet exceeded its fleet of sailing vessels. Not until the early 20th century did the shift from a sail-dominant fleet to steam power take place for Norway’s merchant fleet as a Whole.

Apart from models of the SS Constitutionen and the SS Bergen, this part of the exhibition includes models of several other ships from the early steamship era in Norway. This includes steamers that were used in the fruit trade in Central America where Bergen steamers were prominent and the SS Kong Sverre which belonged to Norway’s first transatlantic steamship line (the Norwegian-American Steamship Company during the 1870s). Included in the exhibition is also a model of the U.S. paddle steamer SS Savannah which, in 1819, was the first steamer to cross the Atlantic.

Shipbuilding and mechanical engineering

During the middle ages the Hanseatic League took control of trade in Northern Europe. Not until the seventeenth century was Norway once again in position to rebuild its fleet. The Norwegian merchant fleet continued to prosper during the eighteenth century, and Norwegian shipping sailed to more and more distant waters. This period is well represented in the museum’s collections, with various ship models, maps and original objects. A notable event during this period was the “Battle of Vågen”, between Dutch and English vessels in Bergen harbour. This part of the exhibition includes ship ornaments and one of the cannons that were used during the Battle.

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