Inside The Family-Friendly Oil Museum In Stavanger, Norway

Petroleum may not seem the most obvious subject for a family day out, but that’s the case in Stavanger on Norway’s southwest coast. The capital of Norway’s oil and gas industry hosts the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, a surprisingly family-friendly attraction and one of the best things to do in Stavanger.

The discovery of oil, technological developments over the decades, the economic significance for Norway, the development of the sovereign wealth fund, and offshore working life are among the highlights.

Family fun

Not much on that list sounds suitable for children, but there is plenty for kids to get their hands on. There are models galore and many interactive exhibits with a playful touch.

Older children can enjoy trying out a real rescue slide and a life raft, while a playground version of an oil platform will keep younger ones occupied.

The family fun continues outside the museum in the city-run Geopark. Built with components used in the oil industry, the playgrond is designed to resemble the Troll reservoir formation in the North Sea.

Just steps away, you’ll find the brighly-colored buildings of Øvre Holmegate—known locally as The Colorful Street—which makes for a great walk to or back from the Petroleum Museum.

The discovery that changed Norway forever

Prior to 1959, few had any hopes that the Norwegian continental shelf would be a major source of oil and gas. This all changed in 1959 when gas was discovered at Groningen in the Netherlands.

Norway, and Stavanger in particular, saw its fortunes transformed ten years later when oil was discovered in Ekofisk, which would go on to become one of the most productive oil fields on the shelf.

The museum chronicles this history, but there’s also a notable focus on the people involved. A short film showcases some of the personal stories—good and bad—shaped by the industry.

Big issues in focus

What’s nice to see is that the museum doesn’t sweep big issues under the carpet. Tragedies including the Alexander L. Kielland disaster in 1980 are addressed, as is the issue of climate change.

The Kielland disaster is well-known in Norway as the country’s worst ever industrial accident, but it’s an eye-opening tale for those international visitors not familiar with it. A total of 123 people were killed when the semi-submersible drilling rig capsized.

Included in the museum is a rescue capsule that you can explore, providing an educational experience and a dose of reality that illustrates the stories of tragedy you hear.

Climate change is also put firmly into focus in two different parts of the museum. In one, technologies such as offshore wind are discussed, while another addresses the environmental issues caused by the oil and gas industry and how we can best make the transition to a greener energy system.

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