No funding for the University Museum

The Natural History Museum building must now remain closed indefinitely as the Norwegian government did not provide funding for the completion of the Museum Project in the Revised Fiscal Budget for 2015.

The museum facade
DELAYED RENOVATION: The University Museum is closed for renovation. It is still uncertain when it can open again.
Marianne Røsvik

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“We are disappointment to find that the government once again has not made room for funding for the remaining parts of the Museum Project. We now put our confidence in the Norwegian parliament, Stortinget, and in particular the representatives from the Liberal Party of Norway and the Christian Democratic Party, who will be negotiating with the parties in power, in the coming weeks will see the need to reopen these unique exhibitions for the common good, the city of Bergen and Western Norway, says Rector Dag Rune Olsen at the University of Bergen.

The Natural History Museum building has been closed since November 2013.

Now Rector Olsen warns of the consequences should funds not be negotiated as part of the Revised Fiscal Budget.

“Should the funding not come in this parliamentary session, it would mean that the organisation that Statsbygg (the Public Construction and Property Management) has built up in connection with the on-going work with the Aula that opens in the south wing this autumn must be dismantled, and the reopening of the exhibitions will be postponed for an undefined period of time.”

Olsen believes that the University Museum has meant a lot to spark children’s interest in knowledge and science.

“Over the past 10 years, our natural history collections have on the average been visited by 25 000 children and young people every year. The museum contributes to an invaluable interest both in the natural sciences and scientific subjects in general. I sincerely hope that our politicians as elected representatives of the people see this value, and help us in the reopening of the University Museum as soon as possible,” Olsen says.


The museum had to close

When the building that houses the natural history collections of the University Museum of Bergen was closed in November 2013, the museum building was in a very bad state of repair.

The Office of the Auditor General of Norway pointed out both in 2003 and 2008 that important cultural, artistic and natural history values could be lost if nothing was to be done with the maintenance of the building. In the reports it was seen as essential that extensive measures had to be in place to achieve an acceptable standard for both building and for storage conditions.

In 2013, the initial phase of the rehabilitation of the south wing of the museum started. The University Museum had to move large parts of the exhibitions in the middle part of the building to obtain a security zone facing the construction site in the south wing. The work to move, record, clean and reorganise more than a million objects started in 2012, and in the spring of 2015 the Natural History Museum building had been emptied.

If the process to move the objects out would have had to wait until a start-up funding for Statsbygg’s assigned task including the middle part and the north wing of the Museum was in place it would mean significant delays for the building project. 


Protected exhibitions

Adviser Hanna Geiran at the Directorate for Cultural Heritage has pointed out that museums like The Natural History Collections are important parts of the history of the nation building.

“When Bergen Museum and the National Gallery in Oslo were built, Norway was destitute, but nevertheless money was invested in these museums. It is important to the Directorate for Cultural Heritage that the Museum is used in accordance with the purpose it was intended for, and we are pleased to see that buildings are being restored and repaired so they can be used,” she said in an interview in 2011.

In the interview, she also said that museums of this kind are “endangered” as considerable pressure to make museums more ”fashionable” exists, with particular emphasis on technologies for exhibitions. For this reason, parts of the exhibitions in the Natural History Collections have been listed, and will be taken care of in the new museum, with far better conditions for both objects and visitors.