Welcome to Varanger Museum

Varanger Museum consists of three departments, located along the Varanger Fjord, in Vardø, South Varanger and Vadsø. The museum documents and presents the multicultural history of Norway’s North border area. Each department has its own specific area of responsibility: Vardø, Pomor history, South Varanger, borderland history and Vadsø the history of the Kvens. In addition, all departments undertake work on the local history of their respective areas.

Varanger Museum IKS was established on January 1st, 2006 with the merger of the Museums of Vardø and Vadsø Museum-Ruija Kven Museum. On September 1st, 2009, South Varanger Museum was integrated into the consolidated unit.

Varanger Museum wishes to offer its visitors an enjoyable experience, as well as insight into the history, nature and culture of Varanger and the northern


Vardø museum
Who are we and where can you find us?
Steilneses mørkeVardø Museum was established as a museum of natural history in 1894, and is the oldest museum in Finnmark. The museum was founded to undertake research into the fisheries of the Barents Sea, and still contains a sizeable natural history collection from those first years. Today, the museum depicts the wide-ranging history of the city of Vardø: Vardø as the Pomor capital of Norway; Vardø as a border station to the east; Vardø as a fishing village; partisan activity during the Second World War; the witchcraft persecutions that took place in Finnmark; and the natural geology of the area. The museum’s exhibitions are located in the city centre of Vardø, at the Brodtkorbsjåene, with the Pomor museum as its focal point. At Kiberg one may visit the Partisan Museum and at Steilneset one will find a cultural path and a memorial over the witchcraft persecutions in Finnmark in the 17th century.

What do we present?
From the 14th century onwards, Vardø has been the Norwegian border post with Russia in the east. Early in the 14th century, the first fortifications and church were established in the city to mark Norwegian sovereignty. Close contact with Russia has influenced the small city community; and, during the Pomor period from the 18th to the 20th century, extensive trade took place across the border, with Vardø as the centre on the Vardø Knut Åserud (22)Norwegian side. The Pomor Museum is devoted in its entirety, to the merchant trade with Russia during the Pomor period and up to this day. The exhibitions are developed in collaboration with the Malye Karely Museum in Archangel.

Kiberg was a main centre of partisan activity during the Second World War. As a result of the longstanding contact with Russia, and the close relations that developed between people across the border, the sense of a so-called Russian threat during the cold war was weak in the Vardø area.

Steilneset Memorial is part of the National Tourist Routes; the memorial commemorates the victims of the witchcraft processes in Finnmark in the 17th century, in which 91 persons were executed. The history is conveyed through excerpts from the original judicial protocols, and art and architecture on an international scale, the result of a unique collaboration between the artist Louise Bourgeouis and the architect Peter Zumthor. The memorial is part of the Steilneset Culture Path that encompasses large parts of the city’s history.

Visiting address:
Pomormuseet, Kaigt 2, 9950 Vardø.
E-mail: vardo@varangermuseum.no
Phone: +47 40480332


Vadsø museum – Ruija kvenmuseum
Who are we and where can you find us?
Tuomainen juli 2012Vadsø Museum – Ruija Kven Museum is localized at the Esbensen Estate and Tuomainen Farm in the Outer City, in the eastern part of Vadsø. During the summer, you can visit the exhibitions and coffee shop at the Kjeldsen Fish Plant on Ekkerøy, 13 kilometres east of Vadsø. The exhibition Airships and Boats is to be found on the Coastal Express’ quayside, and in the cultural park on Vadsø Island one can find remnants of the oldest settlement in Vadsø, as well as the airship mast used on Roald Amundsen’s journey to the North Pole. The Bietilæ Farm, with its jetty and pack house, and the Prestelv Quay, both located in the Inner City in the western part of Vadsø, are also parts of the museum.

What do we present?
Massive immigration from Finland and the Torne Valley in Sweden occurred in the 19th century; these immigrants were called Kvens in Norway. Today, many prefer to be known as Norwegian-Finnish. This immigration set its mark on the city life, and today can be discerned in names, language and building types. There was a marked difference between the Kven and Norwegian populations up until the end of the 19th century. The Finnish-speaking immigrants settled in their own districts, the Outer and Inner City. The museum facilities at the Tuomainen and Bietilæ farms illustrate the Kvens’ building customs and culture. The house at the Tuomainen Farm, as well Esbensen pyntet10as the barn, stables, smithy, bakery and sauna are open to visitors all year round. We regularly host a coffee shop where the authentic bakery oven is used; also, the sauna is heated to allow for use.

The museum also presents the history of Vadsø as a fishing community, as an agricultural area and as a city of trade and administration. The expanding fisheries and flourishing trade relations with Russia made the Vadsø area an attractive place to settle for visiting fishermen, traders and officials as early as in the 17th century. At the Esbensen Estate one can experience the merchant trading houses of the 19th century and examples of upper class life in Vadsø. The coastal culture is exhibited at the Kjeldsen Fish Plant on Ekkerøy, with a jetty, shrimp factory and cod liver oil steamer. The exhibition Airships and Boats on the Coastal Express quayside exhibits local fishing boats, and narrates the exhilarating story of Amundsen and Nobiles’ airship journeys to the North Pole in the 1920s. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, the Museum presents temporary theme exhibitions and art exhibitions during the summer.

At the Esbensen Estate, the museum shop is open all the year round, with literature and gift articles. The museum rents out rooms for meetings and festivities. The stately rooms of the Esbensen Estate are well  suited for formal occasions, as well as for holding meetings in special surroundings.

Visiting address:
Hvistendahlsgt. 31, 9800 Vadsø.
E-mail: vadso@varangermuseum.no
Phone: +47 78942890


The Borderland Museum in Kirkenes
Who are we and where can you find us?
The Borderland Museum narrates the complex border history of South Varanger, a multicultural ag4 community with Finland to the west and Russia to the east. The Borderland Museum lies by the E6, the main road leading in to Kirkenes. The outdoor area contains a turf hut, a small open pit quarry for children with elements from the ore industry; a full-scale copy of the labyrinth at Holemgrå and the statue Birds fly past by Tone Thiis Schjetne. In addition, the museum has several district facilities throughout the municipality. Strand Boarding School, North Namdalen Farm and the Norwegian settler farm, Bjørklund from the 1870s are all to be found in Pasvik. In Bugøynes, 20 km from the E6, you will find the Lassi Farm, a former merchant trading house that belonged to the family Esbensen from Vadsø. Along the river Neiden lays the Finnish settler farm the Labahå Farm.

What do we present?
At the Borderland Museum one can explore theme exhibitions connected to local history. We present the history of the settlement and development of the region, from its origin as a common territory between Russia, Finland and Norway, to a Norwegian border municipality with a complex culture. We also document the industrial history of the firm A/S Sydvaranger, the mining company that, through the extraction of iron ore from open pit mines, led the local development from a traditional, self-sufficient community into a centre of industry. Kirkenes Knut Åserud (13)The Museum’s war exhibition contains, among other things the Soviet fighter plane Ilyushin; and presents the war history of Kirkenes and the border regions. During the Second World War, Fortress Kirkenes was the main base for the German forces, and the city became a target for allied bombers.

In the Espolin Room at Borderland Museum, a selection of drawings and prints with motifs from Finnmark are exhibited, the work of Kaare Espolin Johnson (1907-1994). The museum has a large photo collection, and selected motifs can be viewed throughout the different exhibitions. Among these are photographs taken by the committed social commentator and doctor’s wife, Ellisif Wessel (1866-1949). Online, the museum has an exhibition presenting the history and life along the border river in Pasvik called Borderless water – one river, three states: www.pasvikelva.no

The Borderland Museum is located together with the Savio Museum, dedicated to the art of the Sami artist John Savio (1902-1938). The Borderland museum has a café and a museum store with a wide selection of literature on local history. Our library is open by appointment for searches in the photo archive or for the study of local historical subjects.

Visiting address:
Førstevannslia, 9900 Kirkenes.
E-mail: glm@varangermuseum.no
Phone: +47 922 42 562

Opening hours:
20.6- 20.8: 09.00-17.00
21.8- 19.6: 09.00-15.00