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International Project News

From Estonia to Norway to see innovative ways of using the cultural heritage

  • The lighthouse complex Ryvarden Kulturfyr

    There is no longer a lighthouse keeper at Ryvarden, but visitors are welcome to enjoy the art exhibitions, eat and drink in the café and even spend the night. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

  • Hå gamle prestegard, an old vicarage in Rogaland county

    The old buildings at Hå gamle prestegård, an old vicarage in Rogaland county, are enjoying a new lease of life as an arts and culture centre. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

  • Old warehouses in Sandviken in Bergen

    The old warehouses in Sandviken in Bergen now house the Coastal Culture Centre and the Norwegian Museum of Fisheries. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

  • Hardanger Maritime Centre

    Hardanger Maritime Centre offers a wide range of activities, such as renting a traditional rowing boat for a trip on the fjord. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for 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.

Hå gamle prestegard has cooperated successfully with one of the Estonian manor schools. Estonian experts have provided advice and assistance on the restoration and maintenance of Obrestad lighthouse, and in return staff at Hå have produced a report on ways of using the manor school for cultural events and attracting visitors. The project was funded through the EEA and Norway Grants. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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?


Norway’s oldest royal seat is at Avaldsnes on the island of Karmøy in Rogaland. The area now houses a history centre and a reconstructed Viking farm in addition to St Olav’s Church, shown here, which dates back to 1250. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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

At Baroniet Rosendal, visitors have an opportunity to experience cultural and historical developments from 1665, when construction of the manor house was completed, to 1927, when the last owners left. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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.

Hå gamle prestegård is in the Jæren area of Rogaland, where the landscape shows traces of a long history of human settlement. In the photo, ancient burial mounds can be seen along the horizon. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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.

Local enthusiasts

Local enthusiasts like Marit Vea at Avaldsnes play a vital part in the success of projects using the cultural heritage in new and innovative ways. Photo: Lene Buskoven, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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.

Read more about EEA Grants.

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.