Industrial heritage research in the Arctic: On a mission for the governor of Svalbard

October 24th, 2013 | Posted by Lize-Marié van der Watt in News | Okategoriserade

From August to October 2013, Dag Avango, a researcher at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH contributed to the work of the Governor of Svalbard (Norway) to preserve cultural heritage at the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard. The area in focus was the abandoned Russian mining town Pyramiden. Between August 19-30, Dag Avango from the Mistra funded research project Assessing Arctic Futures, worked together with Sander Solnes (Svalbard museum) to map historical remains there.

Pyramiden August 2013. Photo by Dag Avango.

Pyramiden August 2013. Photo by Dag Avango.

Pyramiden is a Russian coal mining town located at the Arctic archipelago Svalbard. Mining there was started by a Swedish company in 1910, in an unsuccessful attempt to provide energy for the Swedish steel industry and to stop Norway from achieving sovereignty at Svalbard. The Swedes sold Pyramiden to the Soviet mining company Trust Arktikugol in 1927, which built the town in order to supply north-western Russia with coal and to maintain Soviet presence at Svalbard.

In 1998, Trust Arktikugol closed down Pyramiden, leaving it to slowly decay. Over the years that followed, Pyramiden gained a reputation as being one of the most impressive and thought provoking ghost towns in the Arctic, described by media, book authors and artists as everything between – “a suburb to hell” and a “socialist utopia”.

In recent years, the Trust Arktikugol has started to realize plans to develop alternative activities to coal mining at Pyramiden, in particular tourism and services to scientific research. The Norwegian Governor of Svalbard have responded to these plans by asking the Trust Arktikugol to produce an areal plan for Pyramiden. The task of identifying and mapping cultural heritage at the site is a part of that process. KTH and the Mistra funded project Assessing Arctic Futures contribute to this mapping effort, through the knowledge base built by Dag Avango and associates in an international network of scholars studying the cultural heritage of resource exploitation in the Polar Regions. A report on the cultural heritage of Pyramiden will be published in the autumn of 2013.

- First posted on the KTH website, reposted with permission.

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