The Hill and the Museum
by Erling Eriksen
It is likely that the hill has played a part in the ride of the town
of Tønsberg. But it is absolutely certain that the hill has deem
of decisive importance for the growth of the Vestfold County Museum.
Sunday 16 September 1888 was one of many notable days in the hill's history.
On this special Sunday the "Thousand Year Monument”, the Slottsfjell tower
was ceremoniously inaugurated. The tower stood there as a visual reminder
of the towns venerable history. Perhaps further light could be shed on
the history. The tower could be used as a museum for the town. The idea
was very attractive. In 1893 it was discussed in the leader column of
Tønsbergs Blad, the leading local newspaper. The so called
“Tower Committee”, is the committee which was responsible for the Slottsfjell
tower, met to discuss the matter. The committee consisted of G.C. Hansen;
chairman; A. Schive; E.D. Sahlqvist, T. Wessel and A. Monsen. It was decided
to supplement the committee with two representatives, V. Christiansen
and L. Dahl, who were both enthusiastic about the museum idea. It vas
also decided that this enlarged committee should "attend to the collection
of relics". On 22. June 1894 the committee held its' first meeting; in
the Slottsfjell tower Tønsberg Museum was born. In summer 1895
the fitting out of the tower as museum was started and on 22 August
the committee was able to record in its minutes: The collection was inspected
and showed a good beginning.
The new museum's collection grew, partly from gifts and partly from
purchases. Objects large and small flooded in. Among the decidedly largest
objects were the whale skeletons donated to the museum; with a view to
an Arctic section. At first they were placed outdoors but, this was not
a satisfactory solution. They needed their own building. In 1898 a special
building committee was appointed to deal with the matter. The very next
year the work had progressed so far that a contract teas concluded with
the builders Svendsen and Kjeldsen. The new building was designed by the
architect O. Eckmann and the builders submitted them quotation for NOK6400.
The building was erected in 1899. The result was, according to a newspaper
report at the time “an attractive small villa-style building”. With this
extension Tønsberg Museum now had three sections in all: the Antiquities
section in the tower, the Arctic section in the new building and the Ethnographic
section, also in the new building.
In subsequent years the collection grew steadily. However, in the long
run the tower proved to be unsuitable as a display area. The humidity,
in particular, was a direct risk factor. A number of solutions were
discussed, including Teie Manor.
Other organizations too were busy with museum plans. In 1905 Tønsberg
Seafarers' Association took up the idea of a separate maritime museum
for the town and district. A committee was appointed, consisting
of H.T. Hauff and C. Borge, and charged with acquiring exhibits
for a future maritime museum. In 1919 the work was further intensified.
A new, larger committee was appointed. And in 1923 the Tønsberg
Maritime Museum was established with Fridtj. Siegwarth as chairman. Two
rooms were provided for the collection in the Tønsberg Maritime
The Maritime Museum's collections also grew: But the premises
presented problems. In 1931 the collections had to be packed away because
the Maritime School needed the rooms itself.
In the 1930s the museum situation in the town was this: there where
valuable collections both in the Tønsberg Museum and in the Tønsberg
Maritime Museum. Both institutions were experiencing serious difficulties
as far as suitable premises were concerned. In this situation the
idea of a county museum for Vestfold began to crystallize.
In 1925 the Vestfold County Exhibition had been held, attracting a great deal
of attention. The exhibition acted as a stimulus in many areas, including
the question of a museum. At a Board meeting of the Vestfold Historical
Society in 1927 the Secretary, Rudolf Skaug, put forward the idea of a
county museum for Vestfold. At the Historical Society's annual meeting
that same year the idea was discussed and a committee was appointed to
consider the matter in more detail. In the following years a number
of committees, panel's and individuals worked on the matter. In 1936 they
were able to put forward a recommendation to the Vestfold Historical Society.
The recommendation was to establish a county museum on Slottsfjellsløkken.
Architect Eikrann had sketched two alternative designs. The Historical
Society's annual general meeting approved the plan and a separate finance
and organization committee was set up.
However, when the matter was pursued, resistance to siting the
museum so close to the hill was encountered from several quarters. Long
and difficult negotiations followed. Ever one finally agreed to Mellem-Teglhagen
as an acceptable, but not ideal site for the future museum.
On 4 June 1939, after all the formalities had been settled, the inaugural
meeting of the Vestfold County Museum was held. Chr. Lindboe was elected
chairman of the new museum's board of directors and Frithjof Bettum chairman
of the museum's supervisory board. On 18 June that same year the Mellom-Teglhagen
museum site was ceremoniously inaugurated with an impressive programme
of events. Harald Hals II was appointed the museum's curator.
During the preliminary negotiations which had taken place before the
Vestfold County Museum was set up, agreements had been reached with Tønsberg
Museum and Tønsberg Maritime Museum that their collections would
be housed in the new county museum on certain conditions. They also secured
the first buildings for the museum's open-air section very quickly, erecting
them down on Mellem-Teglhagen.
The war put a temporary stop to the further development of the museum.
One very important event for the museum must, however; be noted. In 1941
the Tønsberg local authority agreed to place Slottfjellsløkken
at the museum's disposal. It was decided to move the museum from Mellem-Teglhagen
After the war the collections, displays and buildings of the Vestfold
County Museum multiplied rapidly. The curators in this period were Asbjørn
Bakken and later Erling Eriksen. The museum now has five sections which
together give a picture of Vestfold through the ages, namely:; an archeological
section, a maritime section, a whaling section, a town section and a rural
And Slottsfjellet is still the museum’s nearest neighbour.
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