Armed Forces Museum Oslo
- darkometer rating: 2 -
A museum in Norway's capital Oslo that is mainly about the country's military history. Some sections cover themes of particular interest to dark tourists – especially the Cold War, or the dark days of the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany during WWII.
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
What there is to see: The main part of the museum's permanent exhibition is upstairs. To get to the stairs first turn right and walk through the space for special/temporary exhibitions … or see this first, which may well be worth it at least as much as the rest of the museum – see below!
The initial sections of the regular exhibition go way back in time, starting with the Vikings (but only briefly), and then work their way through the Middle Ages and the long centuries of Danish
dominance in Scandinavia when Norway
was under those countries' foreign rule. To be frank, I found those older historical sections quite boring and I only quickly skimmed through them. It gets a little more interesting in the section from Norwegian independence in 1905 through World War One
(in which Norway remained neutral), including some life-size mock-ups of the trenches of that time, and up to the outbreak of WWII
A whole room is then dedicated to what was certainly the darkest chapter in Norway's 20th century history: the occupation by Nazi Germany
beginning in April 1940. Large life-size dioramas illustrate the German invasion, while in the adjacent room scale-model dioramas depict the battle of Narvik
… involving the same endearing cotton-wool fluffy "plumes of smoke" technique as in so many of the similar displays in the Norwegian Resistance Museum
The last and largest room in this upstairs part is all about the war at sea around Norway and the Atlantic
. There are large guns, torpedoes and such hardware exhibits as well as yet more scale-model dioramas, e.g. of the Atlantic convoys or of the German submarine bunkers constructed especially in Tromsø.
The upstairs parts of the exhibition are partly bilingual, with some translations into English, but not consistently. The descriptions of displays in glass cabinets were in Norwegian only. And the English in the other bits was not always up to scratch by Norwegian standards but sufficient to get the gist (whereas elsewhere the standard of English in Norway is typically quite excellent).
The last regular part of the museum is back downstairs in a large ground floor hall and is devoted to the period of the Cold War
. This is easily the best bit and most relevant from a dark tourism perspective in particular. Labelling as such is in Norwegian only, but there are laminated sheets with translations/summaries in English that can be borrowed from boxes affixed to the walls of each subsection.
Thematic subsections here include the immediate post-war year hardships of the Norwegian populace, who even had to fashion emergency housing out of upturned boats, until new accommodation had gradually been rebuilt.
The looming danger of an all-out nuclear war
is another key section here, and involves a replica of the Hiroshima
bomb hanging from the ceiling. Good coverage is allocated to Norway
's significant role in surveillance and intelligence – especially given the fact that Norway was the only NATO
country that directly bordered Soviet Russia
during that long East-West confrontation (see Kirkenes
Two separate sections illustrate the cultural and ideological opposites of the Soviet empire
on the one hand, and the USA
on the other. With regard to the relationship between the latter and Norway, the museum does not withhold a mention of the fact that not everybody in the country was so happy about Norway's role in NATO
and the possible stationing of mid-range nuclear weapons on its territory. In the main, however, it is only natural that the overall tone of the museum is rather positively inclined towards the military. Nor is it like a sheer propaganda show – as can be the case in other military museums around the world.
The section closes with a display of contemporary military gear, from electronics and missiles to a full-size (original) Armoured Personal Carrier (APC). Then it's through a final door into the space for temporary exhibitions. When I was there in summer 2012, this was a very bizarre display of carpets … apparently made from military fabrics or so. I didn't quite get the significance … And then you get back into the foyer.
Now, if you haven't already done so at the beginning of your visit (like I did) it's worth checking out the exhibition in the other wing of the downstairs part of the museum too. When I was there this was about Norway's role in various international operations, mostly UN
peacekeeping missions. These ranged from the 1950s in Korea
(represented by a field hospital) to missions in Africa, Bosnia
and the Gulf. A special side sections was devoted to the particularly difficult mission of the troops in Afghanistan. The newest section covered the NATO intervention in Libya
in 2011, during the rebellion against and eventual ousting of the Gaddafi regime, so it was quite up to date!
Again, there was lots of life-size, even original hardware on display, including a UN watchtower, part of a fighter jet complete with missiles, and a UN helicopter hovering low over a field with landmines. If you looked closely you could see that the tail of the helicopter was missing, as if it was stuck inside the wall – on the wall opposite the hall, however, that tail piece poked out! Clever little detail I found!
This section on International Operations was all in Norwegian only, but as much of it was self-explanatory enough, I thought I could get quite a lot out of it regardless. Whether this exhibition would become part of the permanent museum exposition or not was not quite clear. The floor plan sheet I was given at the reception desk only labelled the other wing with the carpets as "temporary", while the sheet outlining the contents of the permanent exhibition did not cover the International Operations exhibition. So it remained a bit unclear (and the all-Norwegian website of the museum doesn't help either).
On balance, then: for the Cold War
section alone, a visit to the Armed Forces Museum is absolutely worth it from a dark tourism perspective. The modern International Operations part would also be in the same league, if only it too had English translations of the texts and labels. Apart from some of the bits of the WWII
section, the upstairs parts of the museum are really only for war history buffs. But since it's all free you could just as well have a quick look there too.
the museum (official name in Norwegian: Forsvarsmuseet
) is at the southernmost end of Oslo
's Akershus Fortress complex, (fittingly) just behind the Ministry of Defence, ca. 500 yards south-east from the Norwegian Resistance Museum
, or 0.6 miles (1 km) south-west from the central station or the opera.
Access and costs:
walkable from Oslo
city centre and (unusually!) free of charge.
The museum is best reached on foot – it's only a short walk from the city centre, the Resistance Museum
, the station or the new opera. Alternatively get a taxi. If you're walking from Oslo
city centre it's best to take Kirkegata to its very end where it opens into a large square/car park – or get there from the main Akershus Fortress and its castle by crossing the pedestrian bridge at its south-eastern end which leads over Kongens gate to get to the same square. Carry on across the square heading south-east, past the pretty whitewashed commandant's building, towards the squat red-brick arsenal building. The museum is housed in the southern wing of this, the entrance is accessed from the courtyard. In Norwegian its name is "Forsvarsmuseet".
Opening times: daily in summer between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Sundays from 11 a.m.); in winter only from 11 a.m. to 4/5 p.m. and closed on Mondays. Some sources say the same for Mondays year-round.
Admission free … yes, you did read that right – it's one of those rare exceptions in otherwise super-expensive Norway. That alone should be an extra incentive for a visit!
Time required: round about an hour – depending on how much you're interested in the older sections and on whether or not you can read Norwegian, in which case you may well need longer.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
in general see under Oslo
. The Norwegian Resistance Museum
is the closest and most obvious combination. In fact I've seen people getting the two confused, or rather: being taken to the "wrong" museum (the Armed Forces Museum) when actually they had wanted to go to the Resistance Museum. Even if it's only accidental, though, the two really do complement each other very well.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
see under Oslo
- Forsvarsmuseet 01 - part of Akershus fortress
- Forsvarsmuseet 02 - entrance
- Forsvarsmuseet 03 - tank outside
- Forsvarsmuseet 04 - facing memorials and more fortress buildings
- Forsvarsmuseet 05 - inside
- Forsvarsmuseet 06 - the olden days of trench warfare
- Forsvarsmuseet 07 - the fun side of military life, presumably
- Forsvarsmuseet 08 - German invasion
- Forsvarsmuseet 09 - Atlantic convoy diorama
- Forsvarsmuseet 10 - torpedo
- Forsvarsmuseet 11 - all manner of WWII naval battle gear
- Forsvarsmuseet 12 - model of Trondheim U-boat bunker
- Forsvarsmuseet 13 - post-war period hut fashioned from a boat
- Forsvarsmuseet 14 - Hiroshima section
- Forsvarsmuseet 15 - Cold War section
- Forsvarsmuseet 16 - contemporary military gear
- Forsvarsmuseet 17 - an APC
- Forsvarsmuseet 18 - the red menace
- Forsvarsmuseet 19 - the Soviet Union interactive
- Forsvarsmuseet 20 - the USA interactive
- Forsvarsmuseet 21 - US culture display
- Forsvarsmuseet 22 - nuclear missile diorama
- Forsvarsmuseet 23 - not everyone was in favour of it
- Forsvarsmuseet 24 - but the Cold War ended
- Forsvarsmuseet 25 - and oops, there is a new problem
- Forsvarsmuseet 26 - UN peacekeeping missions exhibition
- Forsvarsmuseet 27 - watching out in faraway lands
- Forsvarsmuseet 28 - Korea section
- Forsvarsmuseet 29 - Afghanistan section
- Forsvarsmuseet 30 - soldier tent mock-up
- Forsvarsmuseet 31 - home-made bombs
- Forsvarsmuseet 32 - vs high-tech weaponry
- Forsvarsmuseet 33 - flying over landmines
- Forsvarsmuseet 34 - window-dressing