Grenslandmuseet (border museum), Kirkenes, Norway

  - darkometer rating:  5 -
A museum on the edge of Kirkenes in northern Norway about the region's special role resulting from its border with Russia/the former USSR. The exhibition extensively covers the history of WWII in these extreme latitudes too, as well as further cultural/historical aspects. 

>More background info

>What there is to see


>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations



More background info: see under Kirkenes in general for more info about the Russian border and the town's fate in WWII, and also cf. Andersgrotta and Murmansk for additional aspects in these contexts.  
What there is to see: The name of the museum is almost a bit misleading, since the main part of the exhibition that occupies the large ground floor hall is instead about Kirkenes and the region during WWII.
The star exhibit is a rare Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 two-seater fighter-bomber plane that fills and dominates the centre of the hall. In front of it a blown-up photo of a bombed house with a group of sculptures/wax figures of a mother crouching and protecting two little children sets the scene.
Along the walls aspects of the war in the far north are outlined through a good mix of artefacts, documents, photos, explanatory texts and partly multi-media-ed installations.
Amongst the artefacts are bomb casings, salvaged pieces of wrecks, guns, a German fog thrower, communications gear and everyday items of the times. Amongst the documents the collection of Russian propaganda posters is the most outstanding – socialist realism meets war rallying cries … and of course there's no shortage of images of Stalin either.
The texts are mostly in Norwegian only but folders with translations are supplied, including Russian, German, Finish and, of course, English as well. The nature and style of the text is frequently "unusual", often emotionally charged and almost over-poetic in places. But that's not to say it necessarily is a bad thing. It just takes some adjusting to.
Towards the end of the main WWII hall, there's a series of small display cases with thematic dioramas. You can sit down in front and listen to recorded soundtracks accompanying these on headphones. Themes include not just the bombing of Kirkenes but also e.g. the camps for Russian POWs. Again, laminated folders with translations of the audio tracks are provided.
Upstairs are two more sections. One is about the mining industry of the area, which could have been done better. The models of Bjørnevatn mine and the Kirkenes iron-ore plants are fine, but background explanation in English is in short supply here. In the far corner there's a TV playing a video, which, again, is in Norwegian only.
The rest of the upstairs is finally about the borderlands. There's a focus on everyday life aspects and trans-border trade then and now. A border crossing checkpoint hut is the largest exhibit (a replica, presumably). If you're looking for some decent coverage of the Cold War, however, you'll be disappointed. It hardly gets a mention at all. Instead there's a bizarre wooden goat on wheels … and I haven't got the faintest clue as to what it's doing here …
An extra section en route back down to the foyer is more an art gallery full of thematic paintings by a local artist. Back downstairs you can browse the relatively large souvenir-cum-bookshop and check out the displays of local tourist brochures.
All in all, the museum may be a bit off topic vis-à-vis its name, but as a small regional war museum it's quite a decent attempt, especially the dioramas that lie somewhere between the moving and the endearing. And real war hardware buffs have a few things to marvel at too, in particular, of course, that restored old Ilyushin. All that alone would hardly be worth travelling all the way up north here, but it makes for a very worthwhile thing to see when in the area. Short of going on excursions further out into the region this little museum is easily the best offer for tourists in town itself – see under Kirkenes in general.
Location: south of the town centre, by the eastern shore of the Forstevatn lake, on the edge of Kirkenes itself, ca. one mile (1.5 km) from the central town square.
Google maps locator:[69.7169,30.0434]
Access and costs: a bit out of town but still walkable; Quite inexpensive for a museum in Norway.
Details: The location of the museum on the edge of town isn't the most convenient (unless you're staying in the old Rica hotel round the corner rather than in the centre of Kirkenes) but it's still only a ca. 10-15 minutes' walk, only part of which is uphill. The easiest route is along the E6 main road leading south out of town, i.e. Storgata, which then turns into Solheimsveien until reaches the crossroads at the old Rica hotel. From there it's a short walk west, then leave the road and walk along the lake shore to reach the museum. The building is quite distinctive, you can't miss it.
Opening times: daily, year round (unusual for Norway!), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, to 3:30 p.m. at weekends, temporarily extended to 6 p.m. (every day) in the summer high season between late June and mid-August (but better check ahead with the tourist info in Kirkenes before going in the afternoon!).
Admission: 50 NOK (students/seniors 40 NOK, children under 16 free).
Time required: about 45 minutes or so, even less if you want to skip the mining and border culture bits.
Combinations with other dark destinations: in general see under Kirkenes – the most obvious single other site in town that is thematically linked to the WWII part of the borderlands museum is the Andersgrotta, an authentic underground bunker system where the local population sought refuge during the hundreds of air raids on the town. From Kirkenes you can also go on explorations of the actual border today. In addition you could even cross it, provided you have the prerequisite visa (!), and take a trip to the city of Murmansk in Russia.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see under Kirkenes.
  • Grenselandsmuseet 01 - exteriorGrenselandsmuseet 01 - exterior
  • Grenselandsmuseet 02 - more a WWII museumGrenselandsmuseet 02 - more a WWII museum
  • Grenselandsmuseet 03 - Soviet Ilyushin planeGrenselandsmuseet 03 - Soviet Ilyushin plane
  • Grenselandsmuseet 04 - the star exhibit with starsGrenselandsmuseet 04 - the star exhibit with stars
  • Grenselandsmuseet 05 - red star projectionGrenselandsmuseet 05 - red star projection
  • Grenselandsmuseet 06 - re-shaped propagandaGrenselandsmuseet 06 - re-shaped propaganda
  • Grenselandsmuseet 07 - German relicGrenselandsmuseet 07 - German relic
  • Grenselandsmuseet 08 - you can listen to moving storiesGrenselandsmuseet 08 - you can listen to moving stories
  • Grenselandsmuseet 09 - teddy in tattersGrenselandsmuseet 09 - teddy in tatters
  • Grenselandsmuseet 10 - war in the far northGrenselandsmuseet 10 - war in the far north
  • Grenselandsmuseet 11 - upstairsGrenselandsmuseet 11 - upstairs
  • Grenselandsmuseet 12 - section about miningGrenselandsmuseet 12 - section about mining
  • Grenselandsmuseet 13 - borderland sectionGrenselandsmuseet 13 - borderland section
  • Grenselandsmuseet 14 - bizarre wooden goat on wheelsGrenselandsmuseet 14 - bizarre wooden goat on wheels
  • Grenselandsmuseet 15 - foyer with shop and cafeGrenselandsmuseet 15 - foyer with shop and cafe


©, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

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