Roundup: Norway gov't says committed to preserving "endangered" Viking ships

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-23 04:57:11|Editor: yan
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OSLO, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Norwegian government said Monday it is committed to preserving the country's famed Viking ships that some experts have warned are in danger of "total breakdown" due to lack of enough funding.

"Preserving cultural heritages such as the Viking Age collection at Bygdoy is a priority for the Ministry of Education and Research," the ministry's State Secretary Rebekka Borsch told Xinhua in an email.

Only three well-preserved Viking ships have been found in Norway in the past. All of them were excavated more than a century ago and are now displayed at the Viking Ship Museum on Bygdoy, a peninsula near the city centre of Oslo.

The Viking Ship Museum, which is one of Norway's best-visited attractions with over half a million visitors every year, is part of the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo.

The government white paper on long-term plan for research and higher education 2019-2028 states that measures must be taken to secure the unique collections of the university museums, embodying national history, culture and identity, Borsch said.

However, according to Hakon Glorstad, director of the Museum of Cultural History and professor of archeology, the Viking ships are in need of more repairs and proper preservation, but have not been granted enough funding.

"They are in a poorer condition than we first believed," Glorstad told Xinhua recently, adding that the supporting systems for the ships are not good enough for carrying their weight.

"The worst-case scenario is a total breakdown of the ship," he warned.

During the past year, "disturbing" damage has been discovered on both the Gokstad ship and the Oseberg ship. Emergency support was required on the Gokstad ship this summer after parts of the hull began to sag, according to a press release from the University of Oslo.

Borsch said the Norwegian parliament allocated 35 million kroner (4.25 million U.S. dollars) the last four years to the project "Saving Oseberg" towards research of developing new methods preserving the Viking Age collection, and the funding will continue in 2019.

An international expert committee in 2012 recommended that "a new museum to display the Viking Ship Assemblage should be built at Bygdoy in the vicinity of the existing building, followed by refurbishment of the existing building as part of development of a new museum complex", according to Borsch.

However, Glorstad said caretakers of the cultural heritage were shocked to learn that the prized Viking ships have not been granted necessary financial support in the government's recent budget proposal for 2019.

"We have done a lot of preparations and planning for a new support system, for new conservation and a new building, but we lack funding for doing these in reality for realizing the plan," Glorstad said.

"There is no funding (for the new museum) and that is what surprises us because we had expected funding for this project in the state budget," he said, adding that they were working with the parliament to seek its support for speeding up the work in rescuing the ships.

The new museum would open to the public in 2023 or 2024 if the project could start now, Glorstad said. "We can't wait another year."

Borsch said that the parliament has for the last few years granted a total of 100 million kroner for Saving Oseberg, securing the collection and for planning of the construction of an extension to the Viking Age Museum.

"This will secure the collection and the Viking ship assemblage for future generations. This fall, the quality assurance report was finalized. Further development and funding of the construction project will be taken into consideration in future National budgets," she said.