The University Museum: Towards a new assembly hall

In the Nineteenth century the University Museum of Bergen had its own assembly hall. Now the work to create a new grand venue for Bergen is in progress.

Construction work during refurbishment at the University Museum of Bergen in December 2013.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Construction work is on-going in the south wing of the University Museum of Bergen.
Arnt Brandseth

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Muséplass 1, which houses the leadership of the University of Bergen (UiB), has been turned into a construction site whilst the University Museum of Bergen is undergoing an upgrade. There has not been a similar amount of construction activity in the museum’s square since the museum got its lecture hall back in 1898.

Then during the 1960s, the south wing was converted from lecture hall into offices and study halls. In places one can still spot traces of the original wall paint, stuccos along the ceiling, remains of dado rail and two rosettes on the ceiling.

Museum director Henrik von Achen did his PhD on architectural historicism. According to him, the art and architecture showing up in the preparation for construction work is as expected.

“There is no denying that something will be lost during construction, but there is so little lost compared to what is gained,” he says about why the construction process is worth its while.

The entire museum building is listed, hence collaboration with the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage (Riksantikvaren) is part of the construction process. The directorate works to ensure that the cultural heritage in the city centre of Bergen is preserved.

“Rigorous research and solid analysis allows us to point out certain areas of the building that need special treatment,” Ms. Hanna Geiran of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage says. Read more in a Q&A from May 2011 about why the museum building was listed.

It is mainly in the wings of the museum building that there is a need to modernise and add new functions.

Henrik von Achen’s main objective is that the basic function of the museum’s south wing is preserved.

“When the original assembly hall was built it was a meeting point between the university and the city of Bergen. This is the platform we now develop further and expand on. To maintain this feature is one criterion in protecting the building. It is a bit like the box at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park, where the box is replaced but the feature is maintained,” he says.

The Natural History Collections will be closed during construction. The plan is to reopen in 2017. The Cultural History Collections at Haakon Sheteligsplass remain open throughout construction.

(Translation: Sverre Ole Drønen.)