Museum of the Jaeren Region

Målfrid Snørteland


Museum of the Jaeren Region

Jaermuseet box 250, N-4367 Naerboe

(Narbo, Norway)
2009 Micheletti Award

Museum and science centre between rural and urban reality

The Jaeren region on the southwest coast of Norway, in the county of Rogaland, is one of the best and most productive agricultural areas of Norway and an important industrial region. Today it's a vibrant urban centre, and the urbanisation has spread to nearly every part of the region. Nearly 9 % of Norway's (4,8 million people) population lives here, in a geographical area that is quite small compared to other parts of Norway. Jaelig;rmuseet was established in 1985 by the seven municipalities surrounding the old city in the region - Stavanger. The challenge was to create a new museum built on the local agricultural heritage, and make it important to a community that was rapidly leaving that reality. At that time our new national wealth - the oil industry in the North Sea was an emerging business, and Stavanger was appointed the oil capital of Norway. How could we make the history interesting to a population that is exposed to new jobs in an innovative, international and modern industry. The oil industry made every other part of the traditional trade and industries seem out of date.

Jaelig;rmuseet took the challenge by making two choices:
1) The young generation, the children, is our main target group.
2) The modern history, the last part of the 20th century up till today is our focus in the themes we mediate.
This year we celebrate our 25th anniversary and Jaelig;rmuseet is now a foundation with 50 man-years. 83 people are working in our different departments. In addition we cooperate with local organisations and volunteers. We have a decentralized structure, and in 2009 we had 144 000 visitors in 7 different sites. The sites are a mixture between small museum sites and the two main departments of our science centre: The Science Farm and The Science Factory.
These two departments reflect the two most important industries in our region the last 150 year - agriculture and industrial production. Historically there was close interaction between these industries, many of the early regional factories started making tools and implements for the mechanization of the expanding agriculture. 
The Science Farm is the head quarter of Jaelig;rmuseet, and one of the two main localities. The site is outside a small community (Naelig;rboslash;) in the middle of the agricultural area of Jaeren.
The Science Factory is located in the centre of Sandnes, the 8th largest town in Norway with about 65.000 inhabitants. In the 19th and 20th century the town was known as "the gateway to the larder of Jaeren" and the to museum departments also reflect the interaction between the rural and urban traditions.
We also have an outreach programme, Science Circus, visiting schools both in our own county Rogaland, and our neighbouring counties south of us.
In 2009 Jaelig;rmuseet received "The Norwegian Museum of the Year Award" and "The European Micheletti Award". A Norwegian tourism magazine appointed us "The most fun museum for children".

Vitengarden (The Science Farm)
is the head quarter of Jaelig;rmuseet, and the oldest of the two main localities. Our first project was to make an authentical old farm into a living historical farm with animals. In 1992 we started to invite visitors to special activity days and pupils to educational programs. This was before we had a museum building at the site. We learned the importance of giving the visitors the possibility to take part in activities, and through these experiences we reached our teaching philosophy: "Learning by doing".  Another point is the importance of interdisciplinary perspective, mixing natural sciences with cultural and social sciences. We realised that natural science has to be part of our perspective when we develop exhibitions on the history of culture and society.  
Our next challenge was to transform our teaching based on outdoor activities to indoor museum- exhibitions. We had to rethink the traditional exhibition concept in museums. We found inspirations in the science centres in different countries in Europe. In the 1990-ies the concept of science centres were new to Norway. But in addition we wanted to keep hold of the traditional historical perspective. We focus on nature and historic use of the local resources. We are making interpretation by building interactive experiments as part of our museum exhibitions. For instance, we are telling the story about how farmers cleared their fields of stones by letting the visitor try to remove a stone from an artificial pit. This is an experiment where you put the moment = force x distance into practical use.
The first museum buildings on "Vitengarden" were opened in 1995. The newest exhibition hall was finished in 2002, and the science centre galleries opened in 2005. The new exhibitions were financed by the Government as a pilot project for science centres in Norway. The exhibitions here are focusing on food, landscape and the "green sciences" - it is literally "the science centre in the larder". The buildings cover 3800 m2, and include 1200 m2 science centre exhibitions and about 500 m2 study galleries.  The architects of the museum emphasized the interaction between the buildings and the surrounding landscape, and the "meeting" between modernity and tradition.
The museum area is located close to "Hanabergmarka", a 70 ha state-owned recreational and cultural heritage area.  From 2007 on Jaelig;rmuseet was appointed responsible for the management of the area. Today we have a research programme with the objective to develop methods how best to recover the heather landscape. 

Vitenfabrikken (The Science Factory)
was established as a new branch of Jaelig;rmuseet in 2002, located in a central block in the city of Sandnes. In 2003, an European architect competition was launched, and in May 2008, "Vitenfabrikken" (The Science Factory) opened new premises consisting of exhibition area (1500m2),  planetarium, workshops, auditorium, museum shop and cafeteria, totally 4000 m2 The opening exhibition is called "Abel's Sketchbook", presenting basic phenomena within science, technology and mathematics. Art and science are complementary tools in our human quest for understanding the world, for understanding ourselves and society at large. Our main objective is to enhance interest in technology, science and mathematics as a vehicle for social awareness and involvement. The project is named after the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, acclaimed by scientists throughout the world.
In Vitenfabrikken we have a focus on the urban and on local industrial heritage. The area has a rich textile industry. So as one of our exhibits we made a loom to let the visitor explore the world's first computer - the loom invented by the Frenchman Jacquard in 1801, a loom that was used in the local factories. And in addition we have digital experiments that are a follow up on the evolution of computers.
In the next years Jaelig;rmuseet will face further challenges. In 2011 we hope to open a new literary museum, in the small Jaelig;ren town Bryne, based on the literature, life and work of the famous Norwegian author Arne Garborg and his wife Hulda.  We are also planning a new maritime science centre at our Lighthouse museum located on the northern tip of Jaelig;ren
In this way we further strengthen our decentralized organisation, and emphasize that the population in each of our municipalities will have a part of Jaelig;rmuseet in their own community.  And together our different localities document and moderate the history of the region. 


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