Coastal heritage

Published by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage Lag rapport Les på norsk

There have been major structural changes in trade and industry along the Norwegian coast, and in people's way of life. These developments pose a threat to many coastal monuments and sites. Significant elements of our cultural heritage are in danger of being lost.

Little of the coastal heritage is protected

Even though the importance of Norway's coastal culture and maritime history has been recognized, this is not yet reflected in the list of protected buildings and installations. Ideally, the list should give a true picture of Norway's complete cultural history, but a number of types of coastal environments are poorly represented at present.

This applies particularly to environments that illustrate everyday life and activities along the coast, such as ports, fishing villages, smallholdings, boatbuilders' yards, boathouses, quays and slipways.

Both development and decay are threats

For some time, many coastal environments have been in danger of deteriorating or being lost altogether. In Eastern and Southern Norway, there is great pressure to develop the coastal strip, which is being "colonized" by permanent housing and holiday homes.

Today's summer visitors want far more in the way of comfort and luxuries, and their lifestyle is in stark contrast to the frugal way of life of earlier islanders, in particular. New ways of using these environments tend to idealize them, and their original authentic character disappears. In other cases, the coastal landscape is transformed by obtrusive buildings or urban-style developments.

In Western Norway, and even more in North Norway, the regions where fishing has been the mainstay of people's lives, the main problem is depopulation and abandonment of settlements. This is followed by rapid decay of buildings and installations in the harsh climate. This trend is the result of important ecological, technological, economic and political changes. The most exposed cultural environments deteriorate very quickly when they are no longer in use, and many valuable buildings and installations have been lost in recent years.

Protection and restoration at selected sites

The project "Conservation of Monuments and Sites along the Coast" was initiated to protect a representative selection of coastal environments, and to combine protection orders with restoration and plans for new use of the environments if necessary.

The aim was to illustrate the variety of activities and aspects of the cultural heritage which can be found in the coastal environment, ranging from parts of the Oslofjord that have been popular among holiday-makers to salmon fishing communities in Finnmark, and from boatbuilders' yards in the south of the country to traditional trading centres in Nordland. The list is by no means complete, but it will give a picture of the complexity and variety of Norway's traditional coastal culture.

A separate Lighthouse Preservation Plan has also been drawn up.