Friday 7 September 2018

The Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

The Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

One of the stops on our recent Disney Magic cruise was Stavanger in Norway. We first visited Stavanger a couple of years ago on a different itinerary, and I immediately fell in love with the town. The cruise ship docks right in the centre of town so it's easy to get to where you want to go, and Stavanger is such a lovely town with its gorgeous wooden houses along with plenty of museums.

On this visit we decided to visit the Norwegian Canning Museum, just a few minutes walk from where we docked. The museum is situated in the heart of beautiful Old Stavanger, with its wonderful white wooden houses and cobbled streets. The museum is housed in the premises of the former canning factory, and it aims to document the part of the canning industry which based its production on fish as the raw material.

We were lucky enough to have a guided tour with the curator of the museum, Piers Crocker, and this really brought the whole experience to life. He walked us step by step through the production process, with plenty of opportunities for the children to get involved and take part themselves.

Tour of the Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

After a quick introduction, we had a go at threading sardines onto narrow skewers through their eye holes. Luckily these were pretend sardines, I can't imagine what a messy and unpleasant job it must have been to do in real life! It's a lot more fiddly than it looks and it took us quite a while, although I assume that if you are doing it all day you soon pick up the knack. Once each skewer is threaded with fish it is slotted into a wooden smoking frame. We also saw a special threading table which lets you thread multiple fish at once by holding the fish in place while the skewer is threaded through - just one of many opportunities to appreciate how changes in technology over time speeded up and improved the processes.

Threading sardines at the Norwegian Canning Museum, Stavanger

The wooden frames are placed into the large ovens, which are still in use today, to be smoked. Smoking was such an important part of the process that the smokers were very highly valued as they had to control so many different variables in order to achieve the best results. 

Smoking ovens at the Norwegian Canning Museum

The heads of the fish are removed using a special decapitation machine, with the heads being collected for animal feed and fertiliser, and then it's time to pack the sardines into the tins. This process is called laying and it's something which is actually done faster and better by humans than machines. There are various different configurations depending on the size of the fish, the volume of the can, and the number that need to be packed.

Luckily the 'fish' that we had to work with were all the same size and fitted neatly into the cans, so laying them wasn't too difficult. The children loved doing this although were amazed to learn that efficient packers can fill a can in just 5-6 seconds - I must admit that it took us a lot longer than that! I think they could have stayed here all day busily filling up the cans, it was such a satisfying process.

Packing sardines at the Norwegian Canning Museum

Once packed the cans are sealed, another part of the process which has speeded up considerably over time. Originally each can was soldered shut at the rate of about a can a minute, which obviously wasn't nearly fast enough to keep up with the rest of the production. We saw a demonstration of one of the early machines that made mass production possible by folding and sealing the can, and increasing the rate to around 7000 cans per day. 

The technology steadily improved over the years, and you can see a selection of different machines which each offer an improvement on the previous one, both by working faster and by sealing more than one can at once. Harry loves any kind of machinery and learning how it all works, so this was all fascinating to him. 

On the top floor of the museum we watched a short video which took us through the process and brought each part to life, beginning with the catching of the fish and finishing with the boxes being loaded for transport and the canned fish being enjoyed at a tea party. There's also a display of advertising posters and labels through the years. The labels are very collectable and I can see why, they really appealed to me with their bright colours and cheerful designs!

The Workers Cottage

As part of our visit we also enjoyed a tour of the Workers Cottage. Located right next to the museum, it's an authentic 1800s house, with the ground floor rooms restored to around 1920 and the upper floor to around 1960. As well as being renovated and decorated, the rooms are filled with authentic items from those time periods which were fascinating to see, and I particularly loved all the examples of handmade embroidery. Definitely make sure not to miss it if you are visiting!

The Workers Cottage, Norwegian Canning Museum

We really enjoyed our visit to the museum, and we all learned a lot. There was plenty to keep the children interested and they loved the hands on activities - Harry has been telling everyone about sticking the skewers through the eyes of the fish, it made a big impression on him! I'd definitely recommend a visit to the Canning Museum if you are in Stavanger, it's such an important part of the history of the town.

You can see a short video below of my children getting stuck in to the canning process.

If you are visiting Stavanger you may also enjoy the Petroleum Museum, which I wrote about after our previous visit - The Norwegian Petroleum Museum. When visiting with children I'd also really recommend a visit to the Stavanger Geopark, an amazing playground made from recycled materials from the oil industry located right outside the Petroleum Museum.

We received a family ticket to the Canning Museum and a tour, in exchange for sharing on my blog and social media.

1 comment:

  1. This was really interesting. Did they get to take their sealed cans home?


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