The Maritime Museum: Collection


“Our honor and our glory the age of sail us brought” wrote Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in his “Norwegian Sailor's Song” from 1861. The poem is a tribute to Norwegian sailors. At the time, the inhabitants of the sailing-ship town Arendal were among Norway's wealthiest.
The poem's renowned title is one many intuitively associate with shipping and sailing ships. It is this period in maritime history the museum's main exhibition "The Age of Sail" focuses on. The era when ships were built in wood, powered by the wind in their sails and used for trade on the seven seas. Boats were not always made in plastic and used for family leisure pursuits. Two-thirds of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans, which humans have tried to master for thousands of years. Oceans that link the continents together – and separate them.
The exhibition explores why Aust-Agder was the most important maritime region in Norway in the 1800s. It looks at the booms and busts in the shipping industry. How sailing ships were built, how the crew spent their time on board, how they navigated the sea and what it was like sailing in times of war and unrest.
Entering the exhibition is like opening the door to an exotic world. Activities are available for both young and old. You get to meet the rookie sailor, the shipowner, the prison-ship detainee and the captain's wife, who will all take you on a journey back in time. To a time when Havana in Cuba was known as the "sugar port", and the food on board consisted of dried cod and gruel.


The exhibition theme is shipowner Morten Smith Petersen (1817–1872) and his role in the modernisation of the maritime industry.

Morten Smith Petersen was one of the driving forces behind the foundation of Det Norske Veritas, and a key player in Agders Assuranceforening. In addition, Smith Petersen took an active interest in politics at local, regional, and national level, and was a keen advocate of free trade. Morten Smith Petersen purchased the property in Hasseldalen in 1848, and under his management a number of high-quality sailing ships were built at the shipyard. 

The exhibition will show the general characteristics of and developments in shipping from the 1800s to modern times, with particular focus on Aust-Agder. You will learn about the shift in power from master to shipowner, the transition from sails to steam, and numerous other exciting aspects of this period.

Hasseldalen, where the museum is located, can boast 150 years of shipyard and maritime history. Among the vessels built here over the years are large sailing ships, steamships, fishing boats, flatboats, barges, and lifeboats. In its heyday, the shipyard employed 500 people.