This article discusses the treatment of historic buildings in relation to their cultural historic values, more specifically documentation and identity values, in a Norwegian context. Both historically and today, the ideals and principles of building conservation waver between a «hands off» conservation orthodoxy and a «hands on» restoration pragmatism; the former with deep respect for material authenticity, the latter more open to reconstruction and adaption. Do the principles used relate to the values ascribed to the historic building? And, while professionals discuss principles, what actually happens in practice? The first part of the article provides a historic backdrop, identifying and presenting significant events and actors in the formative phase of building conservation in Norway, describing a development from a romantic activist phase to save historic monuments, to the scientific and professional institutionalization of cultural heritage management. The second part discusses principles and practice of building conservation with reference to current Norwegian examples.
The historical section of the article is based on a chapter in the author's doctoral thesis, Histories of Architectural Conservation – Five Case Studies on the Treatment of Norwegian Vernacular Heritage Buildings circa 1920-1980.
The city history of Norway is largely about the development of wooden towns. Wood was the dominant building material in most Norwegian towns from the Middle Ages until the city fire in Ålesund in 1904. Even though towns were often ravaged by fire, there was still great reluctance to change the architectural style. Cities were usually rebuilt as before, until new laws prohibited the use of wood in urban areas and introduced a completely new architectural style that broke with the wooden city’s typology. When the modernization of the towns started after the last World War, the old wooden areas were suffering from years of neglected maintenance. The building stock could not be reconciled with new demands for greater building volumes and more efficient buildings. Much was lost before a new understanding of the value of the historic city centers, and the idea that a modern city must take care of its historical traces, created a new paradigm in the urban discourse. Based on the debate in Trondheim from about 1960 until the present, I will explain in this article the emergence of the protective concept in urban planning, who the actors were and how they contributed in getting the building conservation and protection of historical urban environment an important place in modern urban planning.
Ascribing conservation value to a building or object more often than not also means excluding something else from such valuation. What kinds of buildings have been ascribed value as cultural heritage, and what buildings have gone «under the radar» of cultural heritage management and how has this practice affected the kinds of buildings that are preserved today? Have some been lost or become threatened?
To understand how the perception of collective memory and history has affected the concept of conservation value and the cultural heritage area, this essay explores memory studies and the developing of mindsets in management throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries until 2016. Memory, identity and usage of history on the one side and cultural heritage on the other can hardly be understood as separate from each other. The understanding of ourselves and our history affects what kinds of physical traces of our past we ascribe importance to.
Analyses of protected and listed buildings in Møre og Romsdal County indicate that collective memory and identity are, and have been, important for the prioritizing of buildings as cultural heritage. The collection of protected buildings is dominated by mindsets typical of the early twentieth century, but the twenty-first century has seen a broadening in perception of conservation value and building protection. This is supported by the buildings that have been protected since the year 2000, and is further emphasized in the buildings listed in 2015.
The state of protected, listed and other buildings suggests that buildings to which conservation value has not been ascribed may be threatened today or even lost. Even so, the state of the protected buildings indicates that protection is far from a guarantee for preservation. The amount of protected buildings may be a challenge, but there may be time for management to explore ways of collection management, as the museum sector has been encouraged to do lately, and for further emphasis on protection by use.
During the second half of the 19th century, many Norwegian «tun» (clustered/nucleated farm-settlements, housing several families), were dissolved due to the enclosure movement.
The article deals with the Norwegian «tun» and discusses to what extent theese could be considered to be a kind of villages, simalar to the village-settlements found in neighbouring countries as in Sweden, Denmark and elsewhere in northern Europe.
The author argues that the reason why the Norwegian «tun» has not been considered to be villages earlier, is due to differences in reseach methodology and traditional agrarian terms in Norway compared to that of the neighbouring countries.
On this basics, the author claims that the Norwegian «tun» can be regarded as a village type, and he refers to the similarities they have with the small European villages like the German «Weiler», the Swedish «byer» and the English «hamlets».
The small farm, Årdalen, located in Selje municipality, Sogn og Fjordane county, is a farm of the pre-industrial agriculture period before modern technical equipment was taken into use at Western Norwegian farms in the 1950s. Årdalen was a farm that combined farming and fishing with a history dating back to 400–385 BC. The farm had neither a road connection nor electricity. The farm was abandoned in 1957, and the fields and meadows have been grazed by sheep and goats for more than 60 years until present. The main objective of our study was to identify and map the former agricultural structure of the farm, including former tilled fields and hay-meadows. We testified to how the present vegetation could verify oral information from local people and information found in old records. The results show that even after 60 years (or more) of livestock grazing, the vegetation found in the two categories still differs, and can be a valuable tool to use in mapping the structure in old agricultural landscapes. The cultural landscape and vegetation structure in Årdalen is however changing, due to a succession of aggressive grasses, ferns and heather. Suggesting proper management-regimes for old cultural landscapes is complicated. We discuss how to implement a management regime which combines protection of the mosaic structure in an old cultural landscape with protection of biological diversity.
The article deals with the last witchcraft trial in Finnmark, the northernmost district of Norway. The old Sami noaide, shaman, Anders Poulsen, was in 1692 accused of playing the rune drum and thereby performing devilish witchcraft. Through a close reading of the court records from the trial of Anders Poulsen, the article analyses the courtroom discourse, with particular weight on listening to the voice of Anders Poulsen and his presentation of the symbols of the rune drum before the court. Opposing the standpoint repeated by several scholars, that the court records from this case give the best possible insight into traditional Sami religion, the article’s author points to the fact that the description of the symbols of the rune drum given by Anders Poulsen are only in a few cases related to the pre-Christian Sami religion. The majority of Poulsen’s descriptions of the rune drum symbols are interpreted as Christian symbols, and his confession may well be a result of the severity of the trial, with a death sentence hanging over his head, and his wish to convince the court that he no longer believes in the traditional Sami religion, but has adopted the Christian faith.