Museums and cultural heritage

Our museums are an expression of society’s development, the self-esteem of a nation, and the standard for freedom of expression and democracy in the community. These institutions form democratic girders in society, constituting part of the crucial infrastructure that is required for the exercise of democracy and freedom of expression. Museum policy thus lays the foundations for part of our common education as a nation. While museums play an important role in the efforts of a young nation such as Norway to build its national identity, they also play an equally important role in the contemporary understanding of ourselves in terms of who we were, who we are and who we will become.

A fundamental principle of Norwegian cultural policy is that cultural institutions should be independent in relation to political governing forces. Museums are professionally autonomous institutions. Museum policy should enable the sector to develop positively without implementing guidelines that interfere with the professional independence and curatorial priorities of such institutions.

A new Report to the Storting on museums titled ‘Musea i samfunnet: Tillit, ting og tid’ [Museums in Society: Trust, Artefacts and Time] was published in March 2021 and considered by the Storting in June 2021, cf. Recommendation to the Storting 573 S (2020-2021). This Report to the Storting examined the museum sector in full and focuses on museums as social institutions that are intended to safeguard the infrastructure that underpins democracy and freedom of expression. The Report emphasised that museums must be up-to-date and relevant in terms of the knowledge they disseminate, what they collect, how they communicate and how they interact with the world around them. The Report highlighted the role of museums as knowledge institutions benefiting from high levels of trust and integrity that serve as forums for public debate and reflection.

The Museum Network

The museums are spread all over the country and together they constitute a network that is preserving, administrating and communicating the width of the Norwegian cultural heritage. There are 61 consolidated museum units in the national museum network. Museums under the auspices of the Ministry have well in excess of 6 million annual visitors (excluding 2020) and are consequently key meeting places for knowledge experiences. The basis for the communication work are large collections of objects and approximately 5 000 cultural historical buildings.

Reform of the museums

The most important that have occurred within the museum field during the last few years is the reform of the museums. This has lead to the fact that more than 300 museums have merged with the result that now there are approximately 60 consolidated museums. The object of the reform was to strengthen the museum technical environment across the country. The consolidation processes have affected the owner structures, the ownership and the organizing. Despite huge challenges it seems like the re- arrangements have made the museums stronger, both with reference to the running [of the museums] and professionally, and with reference to the administration and research.

Support to museums and other cultural heritage purposes

Yearly, through Ministry of Culture and Equality’s budget, approximately two billion NOK are awarded to museum and other cultural heritage purposes. The main purpose of these allocations is that the museums shall serve as a basis for knowledge about, understanding and experience of culture and society and in a way that shows continuance and change, coherence and difference.  The main part of the allocation goes to the administration of the museums in the national museum network. In addition support is awarded to other cultural heritage efforts.

The county authorities and the county municipalities benefiting from the competence, the communication and other services from the museums are partially responsible for the financing of the museums.