Maritime museum within a museum

One of the highlights of my trip to Norway last November was the opportunity to visit the Hurtigruten Museum in Stokmarknes. My journey was divided into three parts; The journey on board NORDNORGE from Kirkenes to Stokmarknes with arrival after two days’ sailing at 14:15. An almost four-hour long visit to the museum the following day until the final part of the journey, the three-day continued southbound voyage from Stokmarknes at 15:15 to Bergen on board HAVILA CAPELLA.

NORDNORGE, my ship for the first leg of the journey, alongside in Stokmarknes just beside the Hurtigruten Museum. Not much light left this November afternoon.

The Hurtigruten Museum has for many years been high on my list of places in the world I would like to visit. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to gain more knowledge about the museum when I wrote a few articles about Kvorning Design. A Danish architect and design company based in Copenhagen, which specializes in exhibition design for museums – mostly maritime museums, especially in the Nordic region, dominates the reference list.

The list also includes the revived exhibition at the Hurtigruten Museum in Stokmarknes. The museum was established in 1993 with the Hurtigruten ship FINNMARKEN (built 1956) as a centrepiece. The then 37-year-old coastal passenger ship was replaced in coastal schedule the same year by the newbuild RICHARD WITH. FINNMARKEN was put ashore in 1999.

FINNMARKEN’s reception desk on the A Deck.

After several years of rebuilding, the museum was then able to reopen in 2021 as a completely revitalized exhibition concept, where the Norwegian architectural firm LINK Arkitektur had built a gigantic display case around FINNMARKEN, as the absolute central element of a completely new exhibition made by Kvorning Design. One of the many new elements in the other part of the museum’s exhibition is the original passenger accommodation section over two decks from the first FINNMARKEN (1912-1956).

A movie about the coastal express route’s history was showed in the cargo hold.
Another part of the exhibition in the cargo hold.

The revitalized Hurtigruten Museum can best be described as a museum within a museum. While the dream of many who work in ship preservation is to keep ships worthy of preservation sailing, the ultimate in the long run, 50 – 100 years into the future, is to preserve ships under climate-controlled conditions, just as museums around the world have been doing for decades with all sorts of other artefacts of great historical and cultural value.

The high midship mast and the small funnel placed aft were controversial design elements back in the fifties. The top part of the mast is now sticking out of the roof.

As a Dane, I often look enviously at the neighbouring countries, especially Norway and Germany, but also Sweden, all of which, to a far greater extent than Denmark, have managed to preserve large historic commercial steel ships from the 20th century. With an enormous effort from Danish enthusiasts, i.e., managed to keep a couple of historic coasters and a tugboat sailing, but when it comes to larger passenger ships/ferries, the conservation projects in Denmark have all failed.

I could well dream of a greater involvement from the state in relation to be supportive in the financial part of the great work that is required to preserve the large steel ships, which are assessed to have a cultural and historical significance. But I am also, on the other hand, from a realistic long-term perspective, of the opinion that the selected ships must be preserved as an artefact under climate-controlled conditions, which Norway has now taken the lead in showing can be done with the revitalized Hurtigruten Museum in Stokmarknes.

The wheelhouse.
View from the wheelhouse.
First class hall on the Promenade Deck.
First-class staircase.
The first-class smoking saloon on the Promenade Deck.
Here from the starboard side.
The former first-class dining salon and the adjacent second-class dining area now function as the museum café.
An officers cabin on A Deck.
A passenger cabin on B Deck.
Cabin corridor on B Deck.
Starboard side of the Promenade Deck.
Port side of the A Deck.
View aft from the bridge wing.
Interconnection between the museum and the museum within.
From the exhibition around the ship.
The Coastal Express Service is an important part of modern Norwegian history.
Hurtigruten’s many operators until today.
Impressive view from the ground floor.
The steel hull can now be kept in a pristine condition.
Under the bow.
The exhibition makes full use of the aerial space as well.
The aft block.
The third FINNMARKEN, one of several models displayed.
One real Hurtigruten ship and several models displayed.

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