Large donations ensure a safe and future-proof home for Roskilde’s Viking ships

With private donations, financing is now in place to secure the five Viking ships in Roskilde for posterity.
Published 23th Jun 2022

With private donations totalling 135 million kroner from VILLUM FONDEN, Augustinus Fonden and Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond, as well as a grant of 150 million from the National Budget and 25 million kroner from Roskilde Municipality, financing is now in place to secure the five Viking ships in Roskilde for posterity. This will be done by constructing a new exhibition building, which will protect the irreplaceable ships from storm surges, rising water levels and damaging daylight.

The Viking Ship Museum will stay open to the public throughout the whole process of building a new Viking Ship Museum.

It is with great joy and gratitude, that the Viking Ship Museum can share the news that thanks to significant donations, it will now be possible to secure the irreplaceable Viking ships, which are classified as being of unique national significance.

I’m not just happy. I’m extremely relieved that we can now begin protecting the ships from the recurring threat from storm surges. I’m deeply grateful for the generous support we have been given to secure our irreplaceable cultural heritage in completely new surroundings and with entirely new possibilities for their dissemination”, tells Museum Director Tinna Damgård-Sørensen.

Millions in donations from three Danish Foundations

VILLUM FONDEN is supporting the project with 60 million kroner, Augustinus Fonden with 50 million and Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond with 25 million kroner.

“With this donation, we’re pleased to be able to continue supporting the Viking Ship Museum – an involvement which goes all the way back to Aage Kann Rasmussen, brother to the founder of VILLUM FONDEN. This project will create secure surroundings for an important part of Danish and European history and give visitors the chance to experience new perspectives on the Vikings, their impressive craftwork and rich seafaring culture”, states Chairman for VILLUM FONDEN, Jens Kann-Rasmussen.                      

Future-proof exhibition building

With the combined donations, the Viking Ship Museum can now look forward to the creation of a new, future-proof exhibition building for the five Viking Ships, which are an essential part of Denmark’s cultural heritage. Here, visitors will be met with the grand and sweeping narrative of how the Vikings changed the world with their ships – and how the world they encountered changed them. The Museum will also build a separate entrance building and new outdoor areas, to ensure a coherent museum experience.

“It catches our attention today, when we’re presented with an authentic interaction with the 1,000-year-old Viking ships. The ships are world-class cultural heritage and an important part of our history and identity. As a foundation, we are happy to contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage of national – and even international – significance, while also supporting the creation of new, future-proof surroundings for dissemination”, says Frank Rechendorff Møller, Administrative Director in Augustinus Fonden.

Ambitious overall plan

The new exhibition building and entrance building, which are expected to stand complete in 2027, are part of an ambitious overall plan for the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. In addition to the exhibitions and entrance buildings, the plan also includes a transformation of the original Viking Ship Hall together with extensive landscaping, which will give the general public even better access to the coastline and the fjord than they have today. 

“When we talk about the Viking Age, we often think of raiding but the Viking Age is also very much about trading with the rest of Europe, about being inspired by ideas met abroad and the development of a new boatbuilding technology and a proud craft tradition that still exists today. It’s a period which has formed the Danish national identity and which is important to disseminate to future generations in the new Viking Ship Museum – a project which is perfectly in tune with the Foundations long-term focus on innovative dissemination of Danish cultural history”, says Director of Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond, Christine Wiberg-Lyng.

Architectural competition for the entire Museum project

The architectural competition for the entire Museum project will kick off at the end of the year and the winning submission will be announced at the end of 2023. The Viking Ship Museum is engaged in a positive dialogue with Foundations on financing the second stage of the project.

About the supporting foundations:

The Viking Ship Museum has received private donations with a combined total of 135 million kroner from VILLUM FONDEN, Augustinus Fonden and Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansen’s Fond, as well as a grant of 150 million kroner from the National Budget and 25 million kroner from Roskilde Municipality, to secure the Viking ships in Roskilde for posterity.
This will be done by constructing a new exhibition building, which will protect the irreplaceable ships against storm surges, rising water levels and destructive natural daylight.
In addition, these donations will also facilitate the establishment of new outdoor areas and an entrance building, which will unite to give visitors a coherent museum experience. 

Supporting the project with 60 million kroner.
VILLUM FONDEN is a philanthropic foundation, which supports technical and scientific research as well as environmental, social and cultural projects in Denmark and internationally.
In 2021, VILLUM FONDEN gave grants totalling 1,493 million kroner. 
VILLUM FONDEN was established in 1971 by graduate engineer Villum Kann Rasmussen – the founder of VELUX and other companies in the VKR Group, whose mission it is to bring daylight, fresh air and a better environment into people’s everyday lives. VILLUM FONDEN is a majority shareholder in the VKR Group. 

Supporting the project with 50 million kroner. Augustinus Fonden is one of Denmark’s large cultural foundations, which focuses on philanthropic work within the fields of art and culture but the foundation also supports research, education and social projects in Denmark and abroad. Donations from the foundation are distributed widely throughout the country. 

Supporting the project with 25 million kroner. Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond is an independent and private foundation, which aims to support projects that enrich society’s community, development and well-being. 
At the initiative of Mrs. Johanne Louis-Hansen, the Director, Engineer Aage Louis-Hansens Memorial Foundation was established in 1969. The foundation later changed its title to the current Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond.

State support:

NATIONAL BUDGET GRANT of 150 million kroner for the securing of the five Viking ships for posterity. 

ROSKILDE KOMMUNE has set 25 million kroner aside for the new Viking Ship Museum.

Info on the process leading to a new Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum has been working on plans for a new museum for several years. In 2019, a prospectus was presented, which had been developed on the basis of the Minister of Culture’s de-listing of the Viking Ship Hall and a grant from the state towards the protection of the original Viking ships. A prerequisite for the prospectus was the idea that the five original Viking ships would still be exhibited in a large, naturally-lit room, in the same location and with the fjord as a backdrop – but in a new building, which could protect them from rising water levels and storm surges. 

New requirements 
Since then, the requirements for the exhibition of the ships have been restricted further. Investigations into the ships’ state of conservation have shown that the product used to conserve the ships gets broken down by light and UV. The ships must therefore be exhibited in a Black Box. The new requirements have changed the premise for the new Museum and as Erik Christian Sørensen’s idea of exhibiting the ships with the fjord in the background cannot be continued, it no longer makes sense to build the new exhibition building at the water’s edge. 

New possibilities  
New conservation requirements for the future exhibition of the ships have – together with the impact the Corona crisis had on the Museum’s dissemination and finances – given rise to a fundamental re-imagining of the Museum’s future exhibition and dissemination principles. As such, the Museum will now explore the possibilities for financing a transformation of the Viking Ship Hall, so this significant building can fulfil a new role in the future – one that doesn’t involve the preservation of archaeological ship-finds.

About the Viking Ship Museum:

About the Viking ships and the Museum:
  • The Viking ships are classified as being of unique national importance. They also represent a common Nordic cultural heritage, of significance for the entire world.
  • The Viking ships were excavated from Skuldelev on Roskilde Fjord in 1962. On July 5th, it will be 60 years since the archaeologists began the demanding task of saving the fragile ships from the fjord’s depths.
  • On June 29th 1969, King Frederik IX opened the Viking Ship Museum (which was known as the Viking Ship Hall until 1999)
  • In 1997, the Viking Ship Museum opened the Museum Island and Harbour, which contains the Viking Ship Museum’s boatyard, workshops and where visitors can try their hand at crafts and sail in traditional Nordic boats and Viking ships.
  • The Viking Ship Museum has maritime archaeological responsibility for the Danish waters east of the Great Belt.
  • In 2021, the National Museum relinquished responsibility for the five Skuldelev ships to the Viking Ship Museum’s archaeological collection.
  • The Viking Ship Museum was one of the many Nordic institutions, which in 2021 succeeded in getting Nordic Clinker Boat Traditions inscribed on UNESCO’s list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
About the Museum’s visitors:
  • The Viking Ship Museum’s exhibitions are visited by 170,000 guests a year (pre-Corona, 2019 fugures)
  • Roughly 70% of the Museum’s visitors come from abroad.
  • Foreign guests come primarily from USA, Germany, France and England.

Created by Rikke Tørnsø Johansen