The Norwegian Viking ships and other artefacts have been in a precariouos condition, conserved in ways that we now know were not great, and housed in a subpar building with unstable floors that have nearly made the ships fall apart due to the vibration caused by visitors. The building of a new museum to house this world treasure has been long overdue, according to those in the know.

The planned new Viking Age Museum in Oslo told to cut a billion NOK

The Norwegian Minister of Research, Ola Borten Moe from the Centre Party, has delivered a clear message: The cost of building a new Viking Age museum in Oslo must be reduced by a billion NOK.

“Based on the fact that Statsbygg - the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property - have warned that the existing plans cannot be completed within the adopted financial framework, the Ministry of Education and Research ask that the project be reviewed with the aim of reducing the costs considerably.” So reads part of a letter sent from the Ministry to Statsbygg and the University of Oslo a couple of weeks ago.

The Minister, Ola Borten Moe, says to NTB that it is unfortunate and not acceptable to have to exceed your budget before the actual building of the project has commenced.

“We’re pulling the emergency brake and telling Statsbygg and the University of Oslo that they have to work well together in the coming month in order to return to us with a project which is within the adopted budget,” he says.

Exceeding the budget by a million

The University of Oslo and the Directorate of Public Construction have been given until June 2nd to send their input to the process. The goal is to downscale the project, but at the same time ensure that the museum can secure the Viking Age artefacts and be a good museum for the public to visit.

“Those days when the Government swoops in and takes the bill for construction projects that greatly exceed their budgets are over,” said Borten Moe.

On February 8, Arne Benjaminsen, the Director of the University of Oslo, oriented the Board of the University that the new Viking Age Museum might exceed the budget by up to 1 billion NOK – nearly 104 million USD.

The budget for the museum, set by the Norwegian Parliament, was around 2,14 billion NOK. The new estimates then, suggest that it may cost up to 3,14 billion NOK – roughly 326 million USD.

“The information we have been given by the Directorate of Public Construction, show that the reasons for why the project has gone so over budget are the complexity in the project, the complexity in the building which is to be constructed, the pandemic as well as an increase in the prices of the various factors needed in order to complete this building,” Benjaminsen said to the board.

The planned new Viking Age Museum reuses the current structure, the cross-shaped building in the photo, but adds a spacious circle which will allow for better preservation and presentation of the Viking ships and other artefacts.

Director warns against funding cuts

The Director of the University of Oslo also warned, at that same meeting, that cutting costs in order to get back to the budget limit of 2,14 billion NOK would lead to great changes in the planned building, writes the university-newspaper Uniforum (link in Norwegian).

“These cuts would be so great that the project would no longer meet the stated goals of a future Viking Age Museum,” Benjaminsen said.

The Minister on the other hand, believes that Norway should be able to get a fine Viking Age Museum within the original budget of 2,14 billion NOK.

“In my experience, when people work well together, they can make great things happen,” says Borten Moe.

May have to start from scratch

The Minister also warns that it is possible the entire project has to start all over again.

“I hope we can create a project in which we can maintain the concept. If we have to change all the plans of form and function, we will lose a lot of time. But if we are not able to make this project happen within the budget set by the Parliament, then this is a possibility that we will consider before summer,” he says.

The Ministry of Education and Research also writes that the groundwork for the so-called ‘round-building’-design has to await further clarifications from the Ministry – and that the goal is to deliver these clarifications during the month of June.

The ongoing work to secure the artefacts, the Viking Ships among other things, is to continue as before.

The audience is to be able to experience the Viking ships in different atmospheres by changing the lighting.
A planned new auditorium with space for lectures, showing of movies and other happenings.

Making new plans

“This project is of great importance to Norway. It’s supposed to preserve the Viking Ships and artefacts that represent a unique part of Norwegian and European cultural heritage. These are unique items, and they deserve to be taken well care of and to be available,” says Borten Moe.

The Minister has also demanded that NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, cut the costs of their new campus project, which has a price tag set to 11,7 billion NOK.

“We are interested in making this project happen within the budget which has been adopted and will try to make it work in collaboration with the University of Oslo,” says Director of Communication Hege Njaa Aschim from the Directorate of Public Construction to NTB.

It is too early to speak of what changes that might have to be made in the original plans, according to the Director.

The Directorate of Public Construction and Property had originally planned for the new Viking Age Museum to open its doors in 2026.

Translated by: Ida Irene Bergstrøm


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