From Estonia to Norway to see innovative ways of using the cultural heritage
How can you use a vicarage after the last incumbent has moved out? Or a lighthouse keeper’s house after the lighthouse has been automated? A group of Estonians visited Norway to study a variety of innovative ways of using the cultural heritage.
Using the cultural heritage as a local resource
The Estonians on the study trip are taking part in an EEA Grants programme for the conservation and restoration of old manor houses that are now used as schools in Estonia. Some of the manor houses are also used for a range of other activities, and the school buildings have become meeting places for the local community.
Norway has few manor houses, but there are many other historical buildings throughout the country that are no longer used for their original purpose or that have fallen into disuse for other reasons. Many of these historical landmarks are being used in new ways, often thanks to the enthusiasm and creativity of individuals who have helped to breathe new life into Norway’s cultural heritage.
During the four-day study trip to Western Norway, the guests visited a number of sites where people have successfully transformed historical buildings into local cultural resources. Visitors flock to these places, even those that are well off the beaten track.
How has this been achieved?
Every year, 30 000–40 000 people visit Ryvarden Kulturfyr, a lighthouse complex facing the wind and waves on the exposed coastline of Hordaland county. Here they can gain an impression of what life used to be like before the lighthouse was automated in the 1980s, and visit the gallery and café. There are also facilities for courses and seminars, and overnight accommodation for private rent.
The other localities the Estonians visited during their study trip are also used intensively for a wide variety of activities. Their programmes include art exhibitions showing works by local, national and international artists, concerts, literary events, festivals, lectures, exhibitions and guided tours. Several of them also have cafés or restaurants and offer facilities for conferences and other events and overnight accommodation.
Running a variety of activities attracts a wider range of visitors and also makes destinations less vulnerable in the event that one particular activity turns out to be unsuccessful.
A historical context and natural surroundings
Baroniet Rosendal is a protected manor house in Hordaland county dating from 1665. It offers a full cultural programme based on the principle that all the events should reflect something of the property’s history. The concerts, art exhibitions, literary events and history lectures held here are all planned to harmonise with the setting.
Although the textile company Oleana is fairly young, it is part of long and proud industrial tradition. When the company outgrew its former production site, the owners decided to move to one of the region’s abandoned textile mills rather than building a new factory. They found the perfect site by the fjord not far from Bergen, and now operate from premises where the walls are steeped in history. Oleana has opened its doors to visitors, who can see clothes being made, buy garments in the factory shop and have a cup of coffee in the old dyehouse.
The natural surroundings of cultural heritage sites are important as well as their historical context. Hå gamle prestegard, an old vicarage in Rogaland county, is now an arts and culture centre and the perfect starting point for walks in the characteristic open coastal landscape. Visitors can wander among burial mounds and other archaeological remains, or walk out to the lighthouse at Obrestad, which now offers overnight accommodation.
The historical context and natural surroundings are a good foundation for successful value creation using historical buildings and sites. However, this would hardly have been possible without the efforts of the local enthusiasts we met during the study trip.
They demonstrate just how much can be achieved through zeal and creativity combined with close cooperation between professionals and volunteers, even when budgets are tight.
The EEA Grants is Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein's contribution to reducing economic and social disparities in the European Economic Area. The Directorate acts as an expert adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, maintains contact with other European cultural heritage institutions and participates in cooperation programmes and projects.