Comments: Research Opportunities

Norwegian Museum of Science and

The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology is located in Oslo. The Museum was established in 1914 and opened its first permanent exhibitions in 1932. Today, the museum also includes a science centre and the National Museum of Medicine. The history of the museum is documented in the book Teknikk på museum (Ketil Gjølme Andersen and Olav Hamran), published on occasion of the 100th anniversary in 2014.

The collections consist of approximately 60 000 artefacts. Most artefacts date from after 1850. Traditionally, these artefacts have been organized according to subject areas, such as electricity, physics, communication, transport, textile industry, etc. There is an emphasis on artefacts created and / or used in Norway. A number of the artefacts are considered to be national icons, such as the glass chamber Kristian Birkeland used in his research on the northern light, and the monoplane “Nordsjøen” used by Tryggve Gran when he crossed the Northern Sea in 1914.

The medical collection stems in large part from Rikshospitalet, a national hospital established in Oslo in 1826. A collection of scientific instruments going back to the 18th Century was donated by the University of Oslo in the 1950s. Other notable collections stem from the Oslo Electricity Plant, the Norwegian Horology Museum, and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, to mention just a few. A large percentage of the collections consist of artefacts donated by individuals.

To a varying degree, the collections of artefacts reflect a focus on social and cultural aspects of science and technology. The amount of information about the particular artefacts also varies. However, over the past few years the museum has undertaken work to revitalize the collections. Parts of the collections of artefacts have been photographed.

Most exhibitions in the museum make use of artefacts. Among the permanent exhibitions based on larger collections are the exhibitions on medicine, communications, music, and scientific instruments. The latter is supplemented by an extensive web exhibition, presenting artefacts, images, etc.

Resources: (database of objects and photos in European museums) (database of objects and photos in Norwegian museums, in Norwegian) (about the collections, in Norwegian) (web exhibition “Instrument. Stories of Science”, in Norwegian)

Photography, archives, and library: 
The museum photo archive consists of about 300 000 photos. It includes photos by several well known Norwegian photographers, as well as photos documenting Norwegian industry and social life since the mid 19th Century. Among the notable parts are photos from the history of medicine, photos documenting research on the northern light, and a collection of older daguerreotypes.

In addition, a collection of about 1.8 million photos and 6.000 related artefacts has been deposited at the museum, under the name Dextra Photo. The photos show various aspects of Norwegian society and culture, such as manufacturing, transportation, art, architecture and landscape. The major part is from the 20th century. Many well known Norwegian photographers are represented in the collection, among them Anders Beer Wilse (1865-1949).

The museum holds around 180 private archives of different sizes. Among the most notable are the archives from the Aker Mechanical Workshop, Ringnes Brewery, and Hjula Weavery. There are also several archives related to the history of Norwegian aircraft.

The museum library holds more than 115.000 books and periodicals from the fields of science and technology. A large part of the books are in German or English language. Many books and periodicals go back to the 19th Century and have become rather rare.

Resources: (database of objects and photos in European museums) (database of objects and photos in Norwegian museums, in Norwegian) (photos from Oslo, in Norwegian) (about the collections, in Norwegian) (Polish-Norwegian portal on archiving photography based on photographic colletions in Warsaw and the Dextra collection).

Research at the museum is being pursued in relation to work on collections, production of exhibitions, and other outreach activities. Much of the research is interdisciplinary, combining perspectives from disciplines within the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and art.

During the last years, the orientation towards research has been strengthened. Today, the museum is involved in several research projects, cooperating with other institutions (universities, museums, and others). Among the projects are The Political Economy of Forced Labor (2011-2016), Epoch-making Instruments or Artificial Surrogates? (2012-2015), and From Racial Typology to DNA Sequencing (2013-2017).

The museum is seeking to develop new ways of engaging with research, collections, and exhibitions, and to strengthen the relationship between these. Work on collections and production of exhibitions can also be seen as a ways of producing knowledge and conducting research. The museum is establishing a permanent research laboratory, that will focus upon the development and exploration of new avenues to provide new approaches that will better link research and exhibitions and other public outreach activities.

For the time being there are no fellowship programs or special research funds at the museum. However, researchers and scholars who want to make use of the museum resources are encouraged to contact the museum.

Resources: research at the museum, in Norwegian / project descriptions partly in English) (project web page)

Frode Weium, curator

Some artefacts from the exhibition ”Music Machines” are pictured and described in the Artefacts book series volume 7: Frode Weium and Tim Boon (eds.), Material Culture and Electronic Sound, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press / Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013.

(FWeium Agust 2014)