Norway’s largest open-air museum outside of Oslo

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animalsa at maihaugen

Maihaugen in Lillehammer is Norway’s largest open-air museum outside of Oslo. The museum offers more than 200 buildings from different eras, superb cultural experiences, a variety of activities for children and adults, numerous exhibitions and several places to eat. 

Last year Maihaugen has had a solid increase in visits; over 17,000 more visitors compared to 2015. The increase is represented by both foreign tourists and Norwegians, and in particular more guests from Asia.

Norway’s largest open-air museum outside of Oslo,
Bjornstad farm

“We have succeeded in our marketing strategy,” says marketing manager Trude Arnesen.

Norway’s largest open-air museum outside of Oslo,
Anders Sandvig, the founder of Maihaugen Xylograph by Hans Christian Olsen. Photo: Audbjørn Rønning/Maihaugen.

Maihaugen is open all year and has a varied program. During summer the museum is an Eldorado for children and adults with a lot of activities on the schedule.

At Maihaugen  visitors can experience life like it was 200 years ago, participate in exciting walking plays and visit houses from different decades during the 1900’s. Take a walk amongst the sunburnt buildings and take a stop to watch traditional crafts and the animals that are grazing in the fields.
Exciting exhibitions of different kinds are offered all year at Maihaugen.

The origins of Maihaugen can be traced back to 1887

Anders Sandvig, the founder of Maihaugen Xylograph by Hans Christian Olsen. Photo: Audbjørn Rønning/Maihaugen.
Dragonhead at Garmo stave church. Photro: Kaare Dehlie Thorsdtad

Anders Sandvig was a dentist and arrived in Lillehammer in 1885. He started collecting artefacts two years later, because of childhood memories and feelings,as well as a concern that the local cultural heritage would be taken away from the district, especially to the Nordiska Museum in Stockholm.

His first purchase was an altarpiece from Lillehammer church, and he also bought a carved wooden beer mug with apostle figures. He travelled through Gudbrandsdalen, practicising dentistry, and used his free time to buy old artefacts. He exhibited these in the dentist waiting-room before buying his own house. He also collected old furniture in order to furnish his home. The purchases became more planned as time went on and he purchased the first building in 1894, which later became the foundation of the Open Air Museum at Maihaugen. He was a systematic collector of different types of buildings, and he collected the fittings and furniture for these.

Anders Sandvig, the founder of Maihaugen Xylograph by Hans Christian Olsen. Photo: Audbjørn Rønning/Maihaugen.
Old town street at Maihaugen

He sold the collection to Selskapet til Lillehammer Bys Vel in 1901and the collection became a public museum with government support from this time onwards. Sandvig continued as the manager of the museum until 1946. The aim was to display a collection of homes, and to have a variety of homes, to allow the museum to display a complete village society with homes and different society functions.

Anders Sandvig, the founder of Maihaugen Xylograph by Hans Christian Olsen. Photo: Audbjørn Rønning/Maihaugen.
The pharmacist’s home

Anders Sandvig was foremost a collector of special artefacts, which were interesting due to their appearance or a had special story attached. As time progressed, he developed an interest in the artefacts of daily life. He specialized in collecting old tools and items related to handicrafts. He collected artefacts from Gudbrandsdalen, but when it came to handicraft he collected items from the whole of Norway.

He used to buy items directly from the owner at the start, but later he would make purchases from wholesale or antique dealers. Trond Eklestuen, a man from Vågå who purchased old artefacts and sold on to museums in Kristiania and to private collectors, was a special collaborator of his. Sandvig also collaborated with several local contacts in various villages.

Norway’s largest open-air museum outside of Oslo
Maihaugen is a paradise for children. Photo: Esben Haakenstad

Sandvig was an amateur, but later received great recognition for his collection activity and the knowledge he gained as time went on. He was awarded the The Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav and the Borgerdåd (citizen achievement) medal in gold, which is the highest Norwegian award.

Norway’s largest open-air museum outside of Oslo, source: Maihaugen

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