CULPOL2.jpgAn old grave from the whale hunters’ era (1600 – 1750) on the large graveyard at Gravneset in the Magdalene Bay on the north-west coast of Svalbard. Photo: Anne-Cathrine Flyen/NIKU.

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)

Natural and human impact on cultural heritage sites and environments. The research project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council’s programme POLARPROG. The project period is from 1st June 2013 to 31st May 2016.

Cultural heritage management in the Polar Regions is an increasingly challenging endeavour as management authorities face impacts from climate and environmental change as well as increasing human activity such as oil and gas extraction and tourism. The purpose of the project is to address the challenges of safeguarding and managing World Heritage Sites, as well as methodological challenges related to monitoring cultural heritage sites and environments in the Polar Regions. Based on previous and current methods and monitoring practices the project aims to develop an integrated, cross-scale methodological approach to
monitoring cultural heritage assets in the Polar Regions.

The methodology will be based on the combination and integration of methods. The aim is to contribute to a holistic approach to cultural heritage management and a progressive, knowledge-based cultural heritage management of World Heritage Sites in the Polar Regions.

Main objective:

  • To strengthen the knowledge base for Norway’s management and decision making processes concerning World Heritage Sites, and thus contribute on an international level to a progress-ive, knowledge-based heritage management of the Polar Regions.

Secondary objectives:

  • To compile an overview of current policy, research and monitoring practices on the Svalbard Archipelago
  • To develop an integrated, cross-scale methodology relevant for monitoring natural and human impact on cultural heritage on the Svalbard Archipelago
  • To impart results and methods relevant for World Heritage Site management, cultural heri-tage planning and management regimes in Polar Region
Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)


The project consists of three work packages:

Work package 1: World cultural heritage in a changing Polar landscape: future management
In becoming a World Heritage Site, the Svalbard Archipelago will be exposed to even more tourism and other human activity than the area is experiencing today and the work package will focus on national management regimes concerning the safeguarding and management of Svalbard Archipelago.

Work package 2: Vulnerability and indicators of change
The main aim is to identify indicators of change through focusing on degradation parameters like natural hazards/geological hazards, biological degradation, and human activity/tourism. The central research questions are: What are the threats to cultural heritage sites and environments/cultural heritage assets in a changing Polar landscape? and What makes a cultural heritage site vulnerable?

Work package 3: Remote sensing in monitoring cultural heritage sites and environments
The work in WP3 will be based on remote sensing which today is extensively used for surveying and monitoring purposes. The central research issue of this work package will be to evaluate the possibilities and limitations of high-resolution remote sensing as a tool for monitoring cultural heritage sites and environments in Polar Regions.

WP2 and WP3 are closely connected and supplement each other as both WPs will focus on systematic monitoring of a representative selection of cultural heritage sites and environments. Such monitoring is crucial for keeping up with the quantitative and qualitative changes taking place. The methods used in WP2 and WP3 are employed on different scales. WP2 will focus on the individual cultural heritage sites and structures while WP3 will focus more on cultural heritage environments and the landscape surrounding sites.

The three-year (2013-2016) project will be led by the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), High North department, in a consortium with Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Artic Ecology Department, whence six researchers with backgrounds in archaeology, architecture, social anthropology and ecology/biology will participate. Together they have extensive experience with World Heritage, cultural heritage management, GIS, remote sensing:
- Dr. Stine Barlindhaug (PI/Project leader/Archaeologis/NIKU)
- MA in Architecture Anne-Cathrine Flyen (Architect/NIKU)
- Dr. Elin Rose Myrvoll (Archaeologist/Head of The High North Department/NIKU)
- Cand. Philol. Alma Thuestad (Archaeologist/NIKU).
- Dr. Hans Tømmervik (Biologist/NINA)

The research will be carried out in close cooperation with these research partners:
- Dr. Emma Stewart (Geographer/Lincoln University, New Zealand)
- Dr. Jackie Dawson (Geographer/University of Ottawa, Canada)

The following management institutions will be invited to the researcher workshops, to give useful feedback and comments on the ongoing research topics;
- The Directorate for Cultural Heritage
- The Governor of Svalbard
- Svalbard Museum
- Norwegian Polar Institute

Activities 2014:

Field work in Longyearbyen in July

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)
Cruise tourism on Svalbard. A cruise ship with almost 3000 passengers is leaving Longyearbyen. Photo Marit Myrvoll 2014.

In the first week of July Marit Myrvoll conducted interviews among representatives of the local population and tourist industry on Svalbard. The interviews focused on how a potential World Heritage status will affect management, research and industry. The management of cultural heritage will face new challenges as a result of climate change and human impact in relation to the cultural heritage. The main question was about which management instruments exist and what opportunities these provide for monitoring of cultural heritage, and how will the possible consequences/challenges/ restrictions turn out respectively for tourism industry, residents and management?

Field work on the north-west part of Svalbard in July (4th – 11th)

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)
Fieldwork summer 2014: Snorre Haukalid (Governor of Svalbard) and Stine Barlindhaug (NIKU) discussing about the remains of a  blubber oven at Smeerenburg. In the back, a cruise ship on the fjord. Photo: Elin Rose Myrvoll.

There were eleven participants on the field cruise with the Coast Guard vessel KV Harstad that took us all the way up to Sallyhamna on the north-west corner of Svalbard. Then we sailed south, examining the settlements, industry and graveyards at Gjøaneset, Smeerenburg, Virgohamna, Likneset, Gravneset and London, to see how wear and tear from climate and human impact affect the sites’ vulnerability. The field work concentrated around cultural heritage localities, some of them frequently visited by cruise tourists and others closed for visitors.

Participants:Alma Thuestad, Elin Myrvoll, Stine Barlindhaug, Anne Cathrine Flyen, Marit Myrvoll (all NIKU), Hans Tømmervik (NINA), Bernt Johansen, Andreas Tøllefsen, Stian Solbø (all NORUT), Øystein Overrein (Norwegian Polar Institute) og Snorre Haukalid (Governor of Svalbard).

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)

On fieldwork summer 2014 with Coast Guard vessel KV Harstad: In the de-briefing room from left to right: Alma Thuestad, Stine Barlindhaug, (not seen in the photo: Elin Rose Myrvoll, Snorre Haukalid, Anne-Cathrine Flyen), Stian Solbø, Andreas Tøllefsen, Hans Tømmervik, Øystein Overrein and Bernt Johansen. Photo: Marit Myrvoll.


May 25 - 28 in Copenhagen, Denmark: The Future of Polar Heritage Environmental challenges in the face of climate change: detection and response

Arr: ICOMOS’ International Polar Heritage Committee. Paper presentation by Anne-Cathrine Flyen: “Environmental monitoring of cultural remains at Svalbard: Vulnerability and indicators of change”(A-C. Flyen) Poster presentation by Alma Thuestad: “Natural and human impact on cultural heritage sites and environments in the Svalbard Archipelago: a remote sensing study” (Alma ElizabethThuestad, Hans Tømmervik, Stine Barlindhaug & Elin Rose Myrvoll)


Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)


Aug 29 - Sept 4 in Christchurch and Akaroa, New Zealand: International Polar Tourism Research Network (IPTRN) IV: Polar Tourism Gateways: Past, Present and Future

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)
All the way from the westcoast of northern Norway to the east coast of New Zealand: Marit Myrvoll, Elin Rose Myrvoll, Stine Barlindhaug, Alma Thuestad.

CULPOL participants were Alma Thuestad, Elin Myrvoll, Stine Barlindhaug and Marit Myrvoll, presenting the following papers:

- Marit Myrvoll: Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL). Natural and human impact on cultural heritage sites and environments

- Elin Rose Myrvoll: Runaway train?  Escalating tourism at the tentative world heritage site Svalbard Archipelago (M. Myrvoll & E. R. Myrvoll)

- Stine Barlindhaug: Managing cultural heritage at visitor sites at Svalbard: Vulnerability and sustainability (A. C. Flyen, S. Barlindhaug & E.R. Myrvoll)

- Alma Thuestad: Assessing the impact of human activity on cultural heritage sites and environments: a remote sensing study from London in the Svalbard Archipelago (A. E. Thuestad, H. Tømmervik, S. Barlindhaug & D. Hagen).

Oct 23 in Tromsø, Norway: Seminar on Overvåkning i markvegetasjonen på Svalbard

Presentation by Hans Tømmervik: Ekstensiv overvåkning av slitasje på ilandstigningsplasser og kulturminnelokaliteter (Tømmervik, Hans; Thuestad, Alma Elizabeth; Barlindhaug, Stine; Johansen, Bernt; Solbø, Stian; Storvold, Rune). Arr: Norwegian Polar Institute.

Nov 3-4 in Tromsø, Norway: Symposium on Assessing vulnerability of flora and fauna in polar areas

Presentation by Hans Tømmervik: Monitoring man- and climate change‐induced plant stress in the Nordic Arctic Region and Svalbard using remote sensing and field surveys (Tømmervik, Hans; Bjerke, Jarle W.; Karlsen, Stein Rune; Thuestad, Alma Elizabeth; Storvold, Rune; Johansen, Bernt; Høgda, Kjell Arild). Arr: Norwegian Polar Institute.

Nov 11-13 in Longyearbyen, Svalbard: Svalbardsmiljøforvaltningens kunnskapsseminar 2014

Presentation by Hans Tømmervik: Slitasje på vegetasjon ved landstigningsplasser og kulturminner. Fjernmåling og intensiv overvåking (Tømmervik, Hans; Johansen, Bernt; Solbø, Stian; Storvold, Rune; Thuestad, Alma Elizabeth; Barlindhaug, Stine; Hansen, John Richard; Aas, Harald Faste; Bjerke, Jarle W.). Arr: Norwegian Polar Institute


Activities 2013:

Workshop in Longyearbyen Oct 23rd – 25th 2013

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)

Participants at CULPOL workshop 2013: Elin Rose Myrvoll (NIKU), Hans Tømmervik (NINA), Marit Myrvoll (NIKU), Stine Barlindhaug (NIKU), Jackie Dawson (Univ. Ottawa Canada), Anne Cathrine Flyen (NIKU), Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels (visiting researcher NIKU), Susan Barr (RA), Emma Stewart (Lincoln Univ. NZ), Alma Thuestad (NIKU). (Not present: Sander Solnes (Svalbard Museum), Snorre Haukalid (Governor of Svalbard)). Photo: NIKU 2013

The first workshop in the CULPOL project was arranged October 23rd to 25th in Longyearbyen. All participants in the project network were present; both researchers in different capacities as well as persons in the reference group. The days were filled with presentations and discussions, but we also took the opportunity and went on a field trip to see a cultural heritage site of an airplane wreck in the Advent Valley. Anne Cathrine Flyen was our guide and rifle woman. It was safety before pleasure – we were after all in the kingdom of polar bears! After an interesting field trip, we visited Svalbard Museum, and Sander Solnes gave us an excellent guided tour in the magazines and exhibitions.

Most of the time, though, the workshop was filled with presentations about different institutions’ cultural heritage management in the Arctic, as well as discussions about the project. The participants discussed operationalization of the three work packages, especially different aspects of hazards to the cultural heritage sites. The 2014 fieldwork and relevant field destinations were another theme, and it was decided to focus on and visit destinations located in the northwest region of Svalbard. Dissemination was the theme of the last workshop day, and a matrix was made to get an overview of all variables that we should consider in the research process.

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)

CULPOL workshop 2013: Work shop participants listening to Anne Cathrine and learning about Svalbard’s history. Photo: Elin Rose Myrvoll

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)

CULPOL workshop 2013: In the middle of the workshop discussions. Photo: Elin Rose Myrvoll

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)

CULPOL workshop 2013: Airplane cultural heritage site. The plane is a German Junker 88. It landed on the icy ground on the air strip in the Advent valley nearby Longyearbyen in June 1942, but did not succeed to take off again due to the fact that the icy field had melted in the meantime. The airplane was destroyed by the British on June 27th 1942. The wreck is listed and automatically protected according to the Svalbard Environmental Act. Photo: Elin Rose Myrvoll

Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL)

CULPOL workshop 2013: Stine has dressed properly for the fieldtrip to the Advent Valley. Photo: Elin Rose Myrvoll



Nov 7-9 in Tromsø, Norway: Annual Conference of Norsk Arkeologmøte - NAM

Poster presentation by Alma Thuestad: Cultural Heritage in Polar Regions (CULPOL). Natural and human impact on cultural heritage sites and environments.

Nov 13 -15 in Longyearbyen, Svalbard: Svalbardsmiljøforvaltningens kunnskapsseminar 2013

Presentation by Anne-Cathrine Flyen: Nedbrytende faktorer på kulturminner. Arr: Norwegian Polar Institute

Nov 13 -15 in Longyearbyen, Svalbard: Svalbardsmiljøforvaltningens kunnskapsseminar 2013

Presentation by Anne-Cathrine Flyen: Konsekvenser av klimaendringer for ulike kulturminner på Svalbard. Arr: Norwegian Polar Institute