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Old Tønsberg: The Castle Hill, publ. By Vestfold College, 2001. 
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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 School.

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 to Slottsfjellsløkken.

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 section.

And Slottsfjellet is still the museum’s nearest neighbour. 
 
 

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