A project on exhibition architecture

A collaborative project with the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and the University Museum in Bergen
Seminar series
2021 -

Since 2021, the Museum of Cultural History (KHM) and ROM have collaborated on "Project on Exhibition Architecture" aimed at exploring exhibition production across disciplinary approaches and institutional guidelines. From 2023, we are very pleased to further develop this collaboration with the University Museum in Bergen.

Middelaldersalen (2014), Kulturhistorisk museum Oslo, Prosjekt om utstillingsarkitektur (2021-)

The fundamental question "What is an exhibition?" has been central to a series of seminars addressing various aspects of exhibition production. These fully booked seminars have targeted a diverse professional community and have been well received as an interdisciplinary forum for competence development in exhibition practices across the wide-ranging art and museum sectors, transcending internal role and responsibility divisions.

So far, the seminars have featured over 30 presentations, with several more planned in the series. We see significant potential for further development and welcome your input!

The seminar series aims to facilitate an open and broad conversation among a diverse community about the core activities of freelance artists, architects, curators, and staff from both small and large institutions, including major museums and dissemination institutions involved in exhibition creation. The Museum of Cultural History (KHM), as part of the University of Oslo, oversees two museum buildings: the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy and the Historical Museum at Tullinløkka. KHM is a research museum housing Norway's largest collection of ethnographic and historical objects spanning from the Stone Age to modern times. On the other hand, ROM serves as an exploratory platform primarily focused on exhibitions, film screenings, debates, lectures, and textual publications. By fostering a dynamic environment for interdisciplinary exchange, ROM facilitates immersive production conditions in contemporary art and architecture. Despite these differences, both institutions share a keen interest in discussing their core operations. For both KHM and ROM, interdisciplinary work involves creating dialogues between practices and methods drawn from different traditions, thereby expanding perspectives and generating new, unknown synergies.


The background for the project stems from the decision in 2014 to dismantle what had been known for over 100 years as the "Medieval Hall" at the Historical Museum, which was subsequently carried out in 2021. The "Medieval Hall" refers to the hall on the first floor of the Historical Museum that had been dedicated to displaying medieval artifacts since the museum's opening in 1904. The last permanent exhibition installed in the hall opened in 1979, curated by Martin Blindheim and designed by exhibition architect Sverre Fehn. Blindheim and Fehn highlighted the medieval artifacts as art objects, emphasizing aesthetics that have characterized the medieval exhibition in Oslo for over 40 years. The exhibition has been highly regarded by many, including art historians, historians, architects, as well as museum visitors and enthusiasts of art and history. Over time, the exhibition garnered even greater acclaim. The extended display period may have contributed to associating "Medieval Norway" with aesthetics and sacredness, and the project springs from an idea to leverage the dismantling moment to raise questions, foster discussions, and open avenues for dialogue.

The decision to end the era of the "Medieval Hall" at the Historical Museum has prompted numerous questions about what, why, and how. The project's original "object," exhibition architecture, has been replaced with a more complex understanding of the various aspects involved in exhibition production. The collaboration between ROM and KHM has facilitated scholarly meetings between art, architecture, and cultural history, enabling critical inquiry and opening new avenues of thought about what an exhibition truly represents: What attributes contribute to an exhibition gaining long-term renown? Why are exhibitions often temporary rather than permanent? Why do we create exhibitions at all, and how do we do it? What disciplinary foundations are involved? What are the guiding objectives, and who are they intended to serve? These questions propel the "Project on Exhibition Architecture" forward in dialogue with the audience encountered thus far. The project has unfolded in the space between what has been and what is to come – the gap between the exhibitions "Medieval Hall" and the upcoming "Heritage" exhibition opening in 2023. The seminar series, in particular, has allowed for reflections on the power of space, objects, and architecture to influence people at various levels – through knowledge, sensory impressions, and bodily experiences.