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About Svalbard Museum

Svalbard Museum has a prominent position as a source of information about Svalbard’s unique natural and cultural history, and about Norway’s position as a knowledge provider in a globalised Arctic.

Svalbard Museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, inform about, and do research on natural and cultural history, environmental issues, and cultural heritage protection in Svalbard.

From voluntary work to professionalized museum

The museum’s first committee was formed in Longyearbyen in 1964. Five years later, 86 museum artifacts had been collected in the old post office below the church. The first board of directors was established 18 January 1979 in Longyearbyen. In 1981, the museum welcomed the public into its premises in the old pig barn for the first time; the venue was officially opened 20 February 1982. For many years the museum relied solely on the active participation of volunteers from the local community, and up until 1998, it had no employees. In 1999, work began to ‘professionalise’ the museum, again in close cooperation with the local community.

The museum was organised as a subsidiary entity under the local Svalbard Council, was converted to a foundation in 2000, and from 2002 became a separate department under the newly established Longyearbyen Community Council.

Glimpses from the museum exhibitions

The museum dissiminate cultural history and nature of Svalbard. The exhibitions are tranquil, rich in content and offers insight into history through photos, reconstructed models and text (slideshow)

  • The photo shows an "atlant", a wooden figure probably used as an ornament on a ship.
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    A wooden figure, an "atlant" is displayed in the exhibition. Hege Anita Eilertsen / Svalbard museum
  • Photo shows a hat and other objects.
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    The hat might have belonged to Willem Barentzs. Hege Anita Eilertsen / Svalbard museum
  • Two young children reading in an album.
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    Children studying in an old trapper's cabin. Hege Anita Eilertsen
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    Hege Anita Eilertsen / Svalbard museum
  • Picture shows Svalbard reindeer in the museum exhibition.
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    The Svalbard reindeer are adapted to a life in the Arctic Ragnhild Utne / Svalbard Museum
  • Photo shows Russian religious icon.
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    Photo shows a religious Russian icon. It is connected to the first Russian trappers on Svalbard, the Pomor people. Hege Anita Eilertsen / Svalbard museum
  • The photo shows handheld harpoons for whaling.
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    Handheld harpoons for whaling. Hege Anita Eilertsen / Svalbard museum
  • Photo shows children wearing the coal miner's outfit.
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    Children investigation the coal miner's life. Hege Anita Eilertsen
  • Photo shows jacket from a whaler´s grave.
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    Some of the archaeological finds are sensational, both in sharing history but also as a statement of the Arctic climate. Ragnhild Utne / Svalbard Museum
  • Photo shows a fossil.
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    Fossilis from sea and land can be seen in the exhibition Ragnhild Utne / Svalbard Museum
  • The photo shows one of the museum objects in the exhitibion.
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    After the discovery of Svalbard, numerous exhibitions were launched to explore the archipelago and start scientific work. Ragnhild Utne / Svalbard Museum
  • Photo shows a trapper´s cabin, Norwegian style
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    Trapper´s cabin, Norwegian style Ragnhild Utne / Svalbard Museum
  • Photo shows knitted hats.
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    Knittet hats from the "whaler´s periode" at Svalbard Ragnhild Utne / Svalbard Museum
  • Photo of the museum section "inner Arctic".
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    In the section "Inner Arctic", there is time to reflect. Ragnhild Utne / Svalbard Museum

In 2006, the museum moved into the newly built Svalbard Science Centre

In January 2006, the museum once again became a foundation and moved into the newly built Svalbard Science Centre. 

This building houses our exhibitions, storerooms, laboratories, and offices, a total of about 1500 square metres. The museum’s founders were Longyearbyen Community Council, Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, the University Centre in Svalbard, the Norwegian Polar Institute, and Sysselmannen (now Sysselmesteren, the Governor of Svalbard). These entities also appoint the board.

The museum’s operations are funded in part by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Ministry of Culture and Equality. We operate a cultural history depository and laboratories containing 55 000 artifacts, and have a digital photo archive that currently comprises over 27 000 images (collections). As of February 2023, Svalbard Museum has twelve employees.

Managing collections and engaging in research and dissemination within the broad and complex fields our mission requires means we must collaborate with local, regional, national, and international entities. We are always on the lookout for potentially fruitful collaborative projects.

In 1998, Svalbard Museum welcomed about 14 000 visitors; in 2022, about 45 000. This formidable increase demonstrates the museum’s relevance, along with the domestic and international focus on Svalbard, the High North, and the Arctic.

Museum24:Portal - 2024.05.28
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