Paradise for those with a thirst for knowledge

May 31, 2007, 15:00 CEST

"This is a great day for everyone who has worked to realize the dream of having a Science Centre in Bergen. It has become a Centre that is without parallel, where you can actually run the risk of learning something while you're having fun."

It was the Centre’s managing director, Svein Anders Dahl, who in this way adopted an informal tone when the VILVITE (meaning "want to know") Bergen Science Centre was opened at Marineholmen in Bergen on Thursday morning, in the presence of around 250 invited guests. Among these guests were school pupils from Granvin, where six-year-old Bjørghild Himle Egdetveit was given an extra prize for having submitted the name suggestion VILMER (a play on words, meaning Wilmer/"want more") for the Centre’s mascot.

But it was State Secretary Per Botolf Maurseth, from the Ministry of Education and Research, who had the honour of carrying out the ceremonious opening on behalf of Minister of Education and Research Øystein Djupedal, who had to call off his visit due to illness.

Maurseth commented that VILVITE was a fantastic and visionary name, because it is important that children, young people and adults should want to know, to have the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of a subject, to dream, and to wonder:

"A centre of this kind contributes to increasing the understanding of and commitment to scientific subjects and maths, which in turn is essential for comprehending where we come from and how the world we live in hangs together. It is only with greater knowledge of the science subjects that we can find answers to the most important questions we face. It’s enough to mention the challenges within the areas of health and the environment in this context."

Maurseth praised the cooperation between the state sector and the private companies, with Hydro at the helm: together they had worked to realize the dream of having the Science Centre at Marineholmen. Without doubt the centre will represent a powerful strengthening of the local research environment in Bergen, the State Secretary pointed out, and was able to tell those present that the government has decided to increase the contributions to the science centres from NOK 10 million to NOK 16 million, as part of its prioritizing of science subjects.

Sound energy and suppleness

An extremely audible part of the opening programme was when Paradis children’s choir, with their conductor Veslemøy Fluge Berg, made sure that they filled the centre with energy in the form of sound, before the trapeze artist Desiree Hafstad showed off her balancing skills.

Naturally, members of Hordaland county council and Bergen municipality were also present, along with representatives from the sponsors BKK, GC Rieber Fondene, the Nansen Centre, the savings bank Sparebanken Vest, the shipping association Bergens Rederiforening, BIR, NCE Subsea and Hordaland Police District, who have provided the financial basis for the continued running of the VILVITE centre.

It is Mjellem & Karlsen’s old workshop hall at Marineholmen by Puddefjord that has been transformed into the Science Centre, with 75 different installations that inquisitive visitors are at liberty to try out. Everyone should be able to get their imagination going when they enter the premises, because here the idea is that people should be able to play their way to knowledge.

"Instead of giving conventional tours, here the idea is that things should be intuitive. We want the public to be able to go where they want inside the 2700 square metre building. There are special knowledge "hosts", knowledge points, loudspeakers and explanatory texts to assist the visitors as they work their way around the premises," Anne Tove Koldal, the centre’s marketing manager, explains.

Bergen: the City of Knowledge

But one important target group will be school classes, who by visiting the centre will be able to cover a large part of the primary school, secondary school and sixth-form curricula within natural science, biology, physics and chemistry.

VILVITE aims to have 90 000 visitors annually. The goal must be that as many as possible of the region’s school children have the chance to experience the excitement and challenges that can be found in the sciences.

"Hydro’s decision to contribute NOK 100 million to developing a nationally leading Science Centre in Bergen is not least due to the fact that the city is an important centre for education and knowledge in Norway, while in addition Bergen has a unique position with regard to Hydro’s own knowledge-based activities," comments Leif Lømo, Hydro’s Vice President for Technology, and a member of the Bergen Science Centre’s Board.

In his opening speech during the ceremony, Executive Vice President Tore Torvund emphasized that Hydro’s commitment to the Science Centre was an expression of the company’s social commitment, as well as of the fact that Bergen was a natural place for Hydro to invest in knowledge.

"It is important to invest funds in something that can improve recruitment to technical and scientific careers. It’s a matter of being able to capture capable people at a young age," Torvund pointed out.

Hydro has also got its own installation in place, with the name "Dypet og Dekket" (meaning "the sea depths and the platform deck"), where visitors can seek out and extract oil from the sea floor, and not least say how many – or few – million kroner they earn as a result.

Facts about The Bergen Science Centre VILVITE

  • A science centre is a scientific and technological experience centre for everyone between the ages of 0 and 100.
  • The company Bergen Science Centre Ltd was established in the autumn of 2005, and is owned by Bergen municipality, Hordaland county council, the University of Bergen and Bergen Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
  • Hydro’s contribution of NOK 100 million has made it possible to build a Science Centre of international stature in Bergen.
  • The Centre is interactive in nature, with the public being encouraged to find their own solutions. The idea is that children and young people will be inspired and motivated.