Vest-Agder Museum

John Olsen

Director, Vest-Agder Museum

Kathrin Pabst

Leader of Scientific Department, Vest-Agder Museum

Vest-Agder Museum

Vest-Agder Museum Odderoyveien 21 4610 Kristiansand Norway

Kristiansand, Norway
Norwegian Museum Of The Year 2016


Telling Your Story -  Social Inclusion and Longtime Care



Vest-AgderMuseum is a regional museum for the county of Vest-Agder. It was established in 2006 after eight cultural-historical museums merged into one organization. In subsequent years, further museums joined the institution. Today, Vest-Agder Museum has eleven departments and sixteen locations open to the public.


The museum represents a broad rangeof themes and topics. The museum mostly consists of cultural-historical objects and monuments. The museum also has an extensive collection of art from famous Norwegian artists such as Gustav and Emanuel Vigeland, Amaldus Nilsen, Adolph Tidemand, etc.

The museum has two open-air museums showing the development of the architectural style of the region and how living conditions have evolved through time. The city museumstell the history of the cities, their location and how they evolved into what theyhave become today. The museum also houses the birthhome of the artists Gustav and Emanuel Vigeland.

Vest-Agder Museum is characterized by its many technical and industrial cultural monuments and sites. At Sjolingstad Uldvarefabrik (factory manufacturing wool yarn, blankets and fabric), the original machinery is still in function and workers still retainknowledge of handling the traditional machines and how to produce high quality products. At Setesdalsbanen (museum railway), engines from the late 1800s are still in use. Each summer, tourists canjourney in historiccorrect railcars though an authentic landscape and travel “back in time”, showing how it was to travel by steam locomotivesat the time when the railway was closed down as a commercial railway in 1962. Just outside of Kristiansand, the museum has the world's second largestland-based cannon. The cannon has a calibre of 38 cm and is still functional today. There is also a second museum railway; an old munitionsrailway converted to passenger transport. At the museum harbourthere is a floating display of classic plastic boats from 1950–1970. The steamship SS Hestmanden sailed in convoys in both the First and Second World War. In June 2017, it opened as a floating museum, telling the story of the merchant seamen who risked their lives at sea during the two World Wars.

Families, children and young people are the main audience at the museum. At all of the locations, the museum allows the audience to participate in various activities, offering a more authentic experience and enhanced learning.

Vest-Agder Museum researches, curates and tells the story of 70,000 artefacts, 220,000 photographs, 800 works of art and around 100 old buildings. However, Vest-Agder Museum is not just about old buildings, objects and technical, still functioning monuments; the museum is as much the story of people. Our slogan is "We are telling your story". For many years, Vest-Agder Museum has focused on telling stories that we perhaps do not want to hear – taboo stories. The museum has had projects as diverse as sexual abuse, body awareness and image – on the good and bad and how it is to live in an area of Norway were religion and belief plays such a major role. In recent years, the museum has worked on a project dealing with poverty. Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world – even though 10% of the children in the region of Vest-Agder are defined as poor – the same level as during the 19thcentury. Among all the projects the museum has worked on,this has in fact been the most taboo.


The project on poverty is part of a larger project: "Social participant in theory and practice". The project concerns how the museums can highlight untold and controversial stories, help to put people in focus and how the museums can participate more visible and effectively in the public debate. The project will contribute to reflection through themes and approaches that show the diversity of the composite society and question it. The interaction between the museums and the surroundings is central. The aim of the project is therefore two-fold: Increased competence and understanding within the institutions and outwardly in interaction with the population. The project proposed several measures to anchor knowledge of the museum’s community role in the institutions, through seminars, courses, collaborative projects and publications. Much of the accumulated knowledge is also collected on a separate website. This work has been the focus of the Vest-Agder Museum for a long time, and the museum has financed a PhD on the subject. In this latter phase, the museum has taken a national responsibility. These social inclusion projects raise several ethical questions.

Ethics plays a central role in much of the work at the museum.

In 2016, Vest-Agder Museum was nominated for, and won, the prize for "Museum of the Year 2016" in Norway. The jury highlighted that the winner is an ambitious museum with clearly formulated – and executed – community assignments. The museum has as a clear goal to contribute to a "positive community development" and dares to put taboos and difficult parts of history on the agenda. Exhibition projects from recent years that address topics related to religion, body image and poverty are examples of this. The museum has a well-founded value base and stands out with thorough and conscious work on ethics, which is anchored broadly in the organization.

Vest-Agder Museum also received honours for how it has succeeded in joining very different museum units into one single and co-organized organization, despite the fact that the departments are spread throughout the county. The museum has extensive scope in its offerings and work. The organization is characterized by commitment and quality awareness in every aspect, and by good cooperation with important volunteer supporters.


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