The battle to save a Swedish warship - Museums Association

The battle to save a Swedish warship

How the Vasa Museum is preserving a historic vessel
Conservation maritime
Vasa sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was salvaged in 1961

Vasa is a Swedish warship that sank on its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and housed in a temporary museum until 1988 when it was moved to the Vasa Museum in the Royal National City Park in Stockholm. The ship is one of Sweden’s most popular attractions and has been seen by over 44 million visitors since 1961.

Research has shown that the timber in Vasa’s hull is weakening due to chemical degradation in the wood. The vessel therefore needs a new support system to ensure its long-term preservation.

Museums Journal asked project director Magnus Olofsson about the scheme.

Magnus Olofsson
Project director for the preservation of the Swedish warship Vasa
Museums Journal: How are you engaging the public with the project?

Magnus Olofsson: In the museum there are signs and texts about what is going on whenever we are working in the public space. We will have an area in the museum where we tell the visitors about the new support system and work process.


And our staff will be updated on the latest developments and able to answer visitors’ questions. We also have continuous information on our website and in social media and ongoing contacts with Swedish and foreign media about the preservation of Vasa, the new support system and our crowdfunding campaign.

We launched the campaign recently and as well as raising money for the ship’s new support, it is also a way of raising awareness and engaging the public in the preservation of Vasa and her importance as a cultural heritage.

We know that people in Sweden and all around the world care for Vasa and hope that they are willing to help us support her and preserve her for the future.

What will the project offer visitors when completed and what will be the key differences that they will notice when visiting?

The sole purpose of this project is to secure the ship’s preservation for the future. Hopefully, visitors will not notice any differences at all. The new support system is in the form of a new outer cradle and an internal skeleton. It is smarter and has a nicer design than the existing one built in the 1960s, and the visitors will be able to see as much of Vasa as they did before.

As well as crowdfunding, how have you been raising funds to support the project?

For decades we have been raising funds for the preservation of the ship through foundations and corporate sponsorships. The need to raise money for the new support means we have now launched our first crowdfunding campaign, with different activities planned over the next few years.

What do you think those who look after other historic ships can learn from your project to preserve Vasa?

There are a number of lessons to be learned – technical, organisational and financial. At the same time, each historic ship has its own conditions and challenges, so lessons are not always directly transferable.

In this process we have had lots of cooperation with other historic ships throughout Europe. In the UK, this has mainly been with the Mary Rose and Victory in Portsmouth.

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