|ABOUT NARSAQ MUSEUM AND ITS BUILDINGS|
A number of historical buildings are part of Narsaq Museum. They are all situated at Louisevej at the old harbour:
- “Frederik Høegh’s Printing Office” and shop’s interior, Louisevej B-61
- The Blubber House, Louisevej B-57
- Trading Post Manager’s Residence with 1950’s Greenlandic furnishing, Louisevej B-59
- The Cattle-Shed, Louisevej B-58
- Exhibition Building “A-34”, Louisevej B-46
- Turf House (Reconstruction), Louisevej B-1315
Finally, the following building is part of the museum as well:
- Henrik and Malene Lund’s House, Henrik Lundsvej B-430
Narsaq Museum is relatively new: It has gained official authorisation as a museum only in 1985, but nevertheless numerous activities and exhibitions have taken place in Narsaq district already before that. For instance, “Henrik and Malene Lund’s House” was opened as a museum already in 1980 in connection with the town’s 150th anniversary. In 1982, an exhibition about the Norse settlers, entitled “A Chieftain’s Seat and Bishop’s Palace”, was arranged on occasion of the 1000-year’s jubilee of Erik the Red’s arrival to Greenland – and during all these periods objects have been collected in preparation for a museum.
|History of the buildings of Narsaq Museum|
Although the museum as an institution is quite new, some of its buildings belong to the oldest of the town. It is buildings of Kongelig Grønlandske Handel (Royal Greenland’s Trade - KGH) that today are housing the museum at the old harbour. Those are dating from the foundation of Nordprøven trading post – today’s Narsaq – in 1830.
A connected account about the history of those old buildings has not been given so far. The research of it, however, resembles a jigsaw puzzle, where both written and photographic sources – most of them situated at archives in distant Copenhagen – as well as oral history is included. Narsaq Museum has worked on this task for a number of years now, but there are nevertheless some inconsistencies left in the following account.
|“Frederik Høegh’s Printing Office” and shop’s interior, Louisevej B-61|
“B-61” is the oldest building, erected in 1830. Built of boulders and clay with a wooden roof, it was quite a small house, as it only measured 12½ x 9 alen (= 25 x 18 ft). It was built as a residence for the manager of the trading post, i.e. an assistant of KGH, who managed the purchasing and selling of goods in the region. In addition to that, the building housed a shop and stock at its loft, where today a shop’s interior from the 1930s and 1940s is being exhibited.
Shortly after the completion of the building, its builder – Carpenter Hans Jacob Hansen – received a prize from KGH for his fine “paragon of a house”: He was granted 8 pounds of coffee and 4 pounds of sugar. Yet a part of this honour for the building’s architecture needs to be attributed also to Narsaq’s first trading post manager, Peter Hanning Motzfeldt.
The building can be seen on the oldest depiction of Nordprøven, drawn by a clergyman’s wife named Louise Janssen under a visit here in 1852. On this drawing, a little enclosed garden is visible in front of the house, as well as a turf cottage right behind it, probably the manager’s cattle-shed. It appears from this drawing, that the building at that time must have been situated a little farther from the shore than it is today.
Louise Janssen wrote in her diary, that the trading post manager at that time, the elderly cooper Ravn (called Gamle Ravn, i.e. Old Ravn), had kept a large livestock: 6 cows and calves, besides a considerable flock of sheep and a number of chickens. “The cattle-shed is roomy and so neat and clean, that it is a great pleasure to go there for a walk in bad weather.”
The manager’s residence was rebuilt in 1861 together with the shop; and in 1883 it had finally become so “ramshackle”, that it had to be renovated. On that occasion, the roof was covered with shingles.
From around the year 1936, the building functioned as a warehouse for the new shop in the neighbouring B-46 (i.e. today’s exhibition building “A-34”). In 1945 it was converted into a trade office and kept this function until 1962.
Today, “Frederik Høegh’s Printing Office” is being exhibited in the building. When Frederik Høegh moved from Ammasivik (Sletten) to Narsaq as trading post manager in 1939, he took his printing equipment with him in order to continue editing the periodical “Sujumut”. The printing office was then placed close to the trading post manager’s residence of that time (Josefsvej B-60, which today houses the doctor’s residence). It was situated in the small red, wooden building no. B-298, which still can be seen on the spot. It was only in the 1980s that the printing equipment was moved to B-61, where it can be seen today.
|The Blubber House, Louisevej B-57|
The building was erected in 1848; built of boulders and clay with a wooden roof, “14 x 9 alen” (= 28 x 18 ft). It functioned as a storehouse for the goods that KGH purchased from the local sealers, especially blubber and shark’s liver. Those were salted down in barrels and shipped to Copenhagen. Here oil was extracted both from the blubber and from the liver, which has a high fat content. The barrels were produced of raw materials that had to be shipped in for the purpose; the trading post was therefore provided with a local cooperage.
The house had to be rebuilt in 1887, and on that occasion, it was moved a little closer to the shore, where it is situated today. When in the early 1910’s the shore was filled up in order to enlarge the harbour’s mooring space, the blubber house was likewise extended toward the shore.
Later on, also imported goods were stored at the blubber house in addition to the exports purchased from the sealers. Still as late as in the second half of the 20th century, the building was thus used for storing “coarse” goods, such as coal and solar oil, which were sold from here directly. In practise, the sale of coal was organised by means of tags – the so-called coal tags: People paid for a certain quantity of coal in the shop, hereby receiving a tag stating the amount and sort they had purchased. They then gave up the tag at the blubber house, where they could pick up their coal. Coal Tags can be seen at the exhibition in “B-61”.
During the Second World War, when Denmark was occupied and therefore no longer could administer the supplies of Greenland, the use of train oil – i.e. self-supply – enjoyed a renaissance. The then manager of Narsaq trading post, Frederik Høegh, extracted oil from cod’s liver, and exported it to the whole of Greenland and to Denmark (?) in bottles. The train oil factory was situated at Josefsvej, beside the then residence of the trading post manager (today’s doctor’s residence). In the 1960s however, it was moved to Nanortalik, where today it can be seen at Nanortalik Museum.
|Trading Post Manager’s Residence with 1950s Greenlandic furnishing, Louisevej B-59|
This house was erected around 1910 as residence for Joseph Egede, who was trading post manager in Narsaq from 1908 to 1939. It is built of stone and partially boarded with wood.
The small red house with a heart at the door belongs to the building as well – it is probably one out of quite few loos that today are forming an object of a museum at all!
Compared to other private residences in those days, the building had quite a noble standard, and its sitting room could be regarded as a hall of impressive dimensions. The building was inhabited until about 1953.
Around the year 1951, KGH took possession of the house. The company wished to demolish it, as it was situated so close to their office at B-61, that it constituted a fire risk. Due to lack of space in B-61, it was nevertheless decided in 1954 to move the post office from there to B-59. The building thus functioned as post office until 1970.
Today, Greenlandic furnishing from the 1950s is exhibited here.
|The Cattle-Shed, Louisevej B-58|
This house was originally built as a residence, erected by catechist Tobias Berthelsen around the year 1900 (?). It is built of stone with a wooden roof.
It was nevertheless converted into a cattle-shed for the neighbouring new manager’s residence B-59 between 1913 and 1919. Cows and sheep were kept here. Later on, it served as a storehouse for KGH.
|Exhibition Building “A-34”, Louisevej B-46|
The house was built as a shop in 1928 in the same style as the other stone-built houses. As a shop it functioned until 1960, when the new shopping centre was built at Niels Bohrs Plads. Today’s cultural exhibition is situated in the former salesroom; the back of the shop and the loft functioned as stockroom.
The building of shops reflects the changes in consuming behaviour from self-supply to shopping – starting in 1830 with the small loft room at B-61, and ending with a shopping centre in 1960: More and more goods were sold, and consequently more and more space was needed for selling them.
The numbering “A-34” on the roof of the house is an air distinctive mark. Those were used by the American pilots during the Second World War for orientation at the Greenlandic coast, where every area had its letter and every location its number.
|Turf House (Reconstruction), Louisevej B-1315|
The reconstructed turf house was erected in 1992 by young vocational pupils under the guidance of elder residents from Narsaq. Its outward form is typical for a South Greenlandic turf house from around 1930, whereas its furnishing covers the period 1930-60. The house is built of turf and stone on stone foundations, its interior boarded with wood.
This type of building has its roots in both the Thule Eskimo circular house from about 1350 and the extended family’s common house from about 1800. Narsaq Museum’s turf house represents the kind of home that was usual for the extended – and settled – nuclear family in the 20th century. The town’s last original turf house was demolished in 1960.
|Storehouse, Louisevej B-93|
|The storehouse was erected in 1954,
built of wood. Though situated among the museum’s group of buildings at the
old harbour, this house is not part of Narsaq Museum. Owned by the grocery
chain KNI, it is used as a warehouse for the shopping centre
|Henrik and Malene Lund’s House, Henrik Lundsvej B-430|
This building is the former residence of Henrik Lund (1875-1948) – poet, composer, politician, artist and pastor in Narsaq – and his wife Malene (1877-1979). It was built in 1927-30 after Henrik Lund’s own plans with the Greenlandic master builder Pavia Høegh’s assistance. The building is remarkable inasmuch as it is a gabled house, which generally is an unusual type of house in Greenland, as well as for its small triangular windows that are typical for Pavia Høegh’s style.
An outdoor lavatory and a small cattle-shed are part of the house. In front of the building, the rests of the family’s kitchen garden can be seen, enclosed with a cement wall that was erected afterwards. The interior remained as left by Malene Lund at her death and thus stands as a sample of the furnishing of higher class homes during the house’s whole period of occupation.
The house has been a memorial to Henrik and Malene Lund since 1980.
|About the stone-built houses|
The museum’s stone-built houses belong to the oldest and finest in South Greenland. Stone building was prosperous in Greenland between 1830 and 1916: It started in South Greenland and spread northwards subsequently. In the period 1929-40, it enjoyed a renaissance. In this second period, the successful old manager’s residence in Narsaq (i.e. building B-61) became an inspiration for further stone building in South Greenland.
The construction of the solidly built stone houses demanded knowledge, lots of work and a considerable amount of granite. The stones are jointed with clay or mortar. The roof is embedded in the outer wall by a T-formed wooden anchor – a solution that is unknown elsewhere.
Other buildings of this tradition can be seen at Niels Bohrs Plads: The houses no. B-440 and B-441 are both erected in 1930, when stone building was revived in South Greenland.