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History of the National History Museum

The first idea of a national depository of antiquities was publicly presented in 1890 by Jóannes Patursson. This occurred during the fruitful nationalistic period, and the Faroese depository of antiquities is, like the folk high school, one of the lasting accomplishments that came out of the productive cultural life that prevailed during this period.

It took some time for the idea to to become reality. At the public meeting on St. Olaf’s Day in 1898 the establishment of the Faroese Depository of Antiquities was passed. At the meeting, a committee of 18 men was elected to manage the collection, and Andrass Sámalsson was set to receive, book, and preserve artifacts.

The depository’s purpose was to collect, conserve, and display antiquities. The founders had several reasons to establish a depository of antiquities. One of the reasons was a romantic basis. They believed that it was a value in itself to commemorate, honor, and respect our ancestors by preserving their material relics.

Another basis of establishing the depository was for patriotic reasons. During this period, the Faroese people were looking for a national identity, and they felt that a national depository of antiquities could help them create a national characteristic of the Faroepeople.

Finally, the depository was established for practical reasons, as every year more and more antiquities were shipped out of the country. The founders believed that the new establishment would discontinue this stream of shipment. Furthermore, they believed that the antique tools could become models for artisans, who would replicate and develop them, thus creating a new industry.

Today we believe the most important aspects of antique conservation are that antiquities and relics provide us with insight, information, and knowledge of past relations, that have acted to shape our present existence. Although these principles were not very prevalent during the initial founding meetings, they were mentioned.

Rasmus Rasmussen, high school teacher, and A.C. Evensen, priest, travelled around the country to collect antiquities, and soon they had gathered over a hundred artifacts. In 1916 the Faroese Museum Society was founded with the objective to gather and preserve Faroese antiques, and they took over ownership of the Depository of Antiquities.

The museum was reformed in 1928, and M.A. Jacobsen, Hans Andreas and Petra Djurhuus, and several others put enormous energy into the new museum. They treated and organized the artifacts, and set up an exhibition at the Quillingsestate in Tórshavn with regular opening hours.

Fornminnissavnið gripamynd

In 1931 the museum was moved to the attic of the newly constructed library at Debesartrøð, Tórshavn. The exhibition was situated here until 1996, when it was moved to its present location in Brekkutún, Hoyvik.

Andreas Weihe was one of the main contributors to the museum during the 1930’s. He travelled a lot throughout the country and acquired antiquities, which he donated to the museum. His artifacts are an important factor for the museum’s collection for the 18th and 19th century. Andreas Weihe was a farmer in Selatrað. He was born in 1867 and died in 1946. He was a representative for the Unionist Party in Parliament from 1903 to 1910.

Up until 1940, the museum’s only objective had been to collect, conserve, and exhibit antiquities. In 1941, the museum began conducting archeological excavations under the supervision of Sverri Dahl (1910-1987). The first relic that was excavated was the viking farmstead in Kvívík.

A law passed by the Løgting in 1952 made the Depository of Antiquity a public institution, and it changed the name to National History Museum. The National History Museum was prescribed to administer certain scientific and administrative tasks. Furthermore, the museum received permanent staff, when Sverri Dahl became Keeper of National Antiquities.

The boat hall in Debesartrøð was built in 1952 and was financed by Hans Andreas and Petra Djurhuus. They wanted the boat hall to be the place of the Faroese National Museum and Natural Museum’s exhibition and workroom, as well as a common room for the the faroese scientific society. On Saint Olaf’s Day 1952 the museum opened officially in relation to the centenary of the Faroese Parliament.

The permanent exhibitions were for many years in the library attic and boat hall, but as time passed space became an issue. In 1996 the National History Museum was moved to Brekkutún in Hoyvik, where it is today.