Coastal heritage

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

Norway is a coastal nation. Throughout history, large sections of the population have had their income from the sea. Therefore, a large number of cultural monuments are found along the Norwegian coast. Knowledge of life at sea is an important part of our cultural heritage.

Decay in some areas

Many coastal environments are in danger of deterioration and decay, due to depopulation in parts of the country. This applies in particular to environments that illustrate everyday life and activities along the coast, such as ports, fishing villages, smallholdings, boatbuilders' yards, boathouses, quays and slipways. In other parts of the country, on the other hand, the cultural heritage of the coast is well taken care of.

Both development and decay are threats

There have been major structural changes in trade and industry along the Norwegian coast, and in people's way of life. In Eastern and Southern Norway, there is pressure to develop the coastal strip.

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. In some places, the overall character of the coastal landscape has been changed due to new developments and settlements.

In Western Norway, and even more in Northern Norway, the regions where fishing has been the mainstay of people's lives, the main problem is depopulation and abandonment of settlements. This often leads to 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 quickly when they are no longer in use, and many valuable buildings and installations have been lost during the last decades.

Cooperation on the protection of coastal heritage

The Directorate for Cultural Heritage cooperates with a wide range of sectoral, regional and local authorities and NGOs to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of the coast.

A joint action plan for coastal culture 2011-2014 was prepared in cooperation with the Directorate of Fisheries, the Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Arts Council Norway. The maritime museums also participate in the follow-up of the work.

Protection of  coastal heritage

The first conservation of a coastal cultural environment took place as early as in the 1920s, when the traditional trading center Rugsund in Bremanger in Western Norway was protected. Today several vessels and lighthouses are also protected. One of the most recent protections is the seaport Ny-Hellesund in Southern Norway, which was protected in 2016.

Identity and business development

Based on their cultural heritage value, many towns and villages along the coast have potential for new development. One example is the small coastal town of Risør. By maintaining its old wooden houses it has succeeded in combining identity building and business development. Today, art and culture form the basis of most developments in Risør.