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Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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Polar heritage

The Directorate for Cultural Heritage also has the responsibility for cultural heritage in the Norwegian Arctic: Svalbard and Jan Mayen, and acts as advisor concerning Norwegian cultural heritage in Antarctica and other polar areas.

These remains of a 17th century Dutch whaling station in Svalbard present a huge contrast to the Norwegian 20th century whaling station remains in South Georgia, but both are important industrial heritage that the Directorate strives to protect for future generations. Photo: Susan Barr / Riksantikvaren

Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Both Svalbard and Jan Mayen have separate laws from the mainland Cultural Heritage Act. The Svalbard Environmental Law is fairly unique in that it combines both natural and cultural heritage regulations. Similarly for Jan Mayen the Regulations for the Protection of Jan Mayen Nature Reserve include cultural heritage protection.

In Svalbard and Jan Mayen all cultural heritage older than 1946 is automatically protected and the Directorate can also protect heritage younger than 1945. In both areas remains from 17th century whaling activities are the oldest known objects and sites connected to World War II the youngest with automatic protection.  Hunting and trapping and scientific expeditions have left their mark in both areas, while Svalbard also has many remains from 20th century mining and prospecting.

In Svalbard the Governor’s environmental division is the local cultural heritage authority, while the Directorate has the central responsibility. On Jan Mayen the Directorate has direct responsibility for heritage matters.


In Antarctica and sub-Antarctica 20th century whaling has left industrial heritage on such sites as Deception Island and South Georgia. The first buildings to be erected in Antarctica – Carsten Borchgrevink’s timber cabins from 1899 – were prefabricated in Strømmen, near Oslo. The Directorate advises the Norwegian Foreign Ministry concerning initiatives to protect Norwegian heritage in cooperation with the relevant authorities in the areas.

Film from Deception Island