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Collapse - human being in an unpredictable world

A collapse is also a beginning. Things fall apart, something new begins. In Collapse, you will meet people who, in various ways and at different times, face forces of nature that threatens to collapse their world.

Overview of part of the exhibition room

Photo: © Museum of Cultural History, UiO/Kirsten Helgeland

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How did it all begin? Who was first and how did the world as we know it come to be? If we take a closer look, we see that the world is constantly starting anew. Things fall apart, something new begins.

Collapse is an exhibition about what can happen when nature disrupts our world. We humans try our best to control nature, but nature repeatedly throws us into chaos and forces us to look at the world from a new perspective. 

In Collapse, you will meet people who, in different ways and at different times, live between control and chaos:

  • In the distant past we meet Stone Age pioneers who ventured north and made a new life for themselves along the coast of Norway after the collapse of the Ice Age
  • We travel east to The Pacific and see how people in Polynesia held chaos at bay with the help of caution (tapu) and daring (mana)
  • We meet today´s urban gardeners who are exploring new ways of living in response to the threat of ecological collapse that faces us today

In the spaces between the stories, you can explore for yourself how daring, ingenuity, control and collapse interact.

Oslo fjord pioneers

Join us on a journey to a distant past when enterprising pioneers ventured north to explore the new world that was taking shape as the  ice sheets melted and new land rose from the sea.

Les mer

With the collapse of the Ice Age, people spread to all corners of the world – including the inner Oslo Fjord.  Here the remains of the first pioneer settlements have been uncovered and we can study the dramatic changes to the Stone Age landscape in a long term perspective.

The new Stone Age cultures that emerge after the last Ice Age illustrate how dramatic environmental changes can destroy a way of life. But the collapse of the old world also created radical new opportunities for those with creativity and courage.

Head above water

In places dominated by the sea and subject to unpredictable and violent forces of nature, destruction and impending collapse is impossible to ignore. In Polynesia this has given rise to an understanding of the world as a place where catastrophe, chaos and collapse are an ever-present part of life, not rare exceptions to the norm.

Les mer

Europeans often thought of Polynesia as the ultimate “South Sea island paradise”. Today Polynesia is increasingly threatened by man-made climate change.  Not surprising, as many of the world’s lowest lying islands are found here. The islanders are threatened by rising sea levels, cyclones, floods and earthquakes.

Climate change presents many new challenges, but coping with the overpowering forces of nature is nothing new. Since coming to these islands 3000 year ago, people have tried to understand the unpredictable forces that surround them and have developed many ways of dealing with their  world.  The strategies they have chosen are reflected in their stories, art, rituals and technology . Living in an unpredictable world demands both caution, including upholding social and ritual rules (tapu) and at the same time, daring and initiative (mana).

In this section of Collapse we take a look at  Polynesian cosmology, art and ritual in order to explore cultural creativity in the face of impending collapse.

Urban Gardening in Oslo

Is the world as we know it on the verge of collapse?  Many feel that we are doing our best to destroy the planet by the way we live and that it’s only a matter of time before the earth will be unfit for human habitation. So what are we doing about it?

Les mer

In recent years, people in cities around the world have been experimenting with how to grow food in urban ares.  But it’s not just about growing things. It’s about new ways of understanding urban space, about developing new technologies, - and for many people - about making  a radical break from the way we live today.

In COLLAPSE we take a look at some of the things urban gardeners are doing worldwide . We also give it a try – by creating a growing-zone in within the exhibition itself.


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Published June 21, 2018 3:58 PM - Last modified Dec. 13, 2019 9:57 AM