“Treasure chest” found at Uranienborg

On 22 November 2015, Henrik Smith – then department director at the Follo museum – discovered a chest in one of the outbuildings at Roald Amundsen’s home. On one side of the chest was written, “Leon Amundsen, Kristiania, Norway. From Roald Amundsen, Nome, Alaska.”

The find led to the launch in 2020 of a major digitization project. Read more about the discovery of the chest in Aftenposten, 26.11.2015 📜.

Treasure hunting at Uranienborg is always an exciting affair, and in 2015 this chest full of documents and photos was found in a storeroom. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

Fourteen hundred photographs, including negatives on both nitrate and glass, paper positives of various sizes, and slides varying in size and quality were contained in the chest. Also inside were notebooks, lectures, rationing diaries, letters, photographic postcards, and much, much more.

Paper positives from the Fram expedition that lay hidden in the chest. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

Almost at the top of the pile was an envelope on which was written in English, “North West Passage, Photographs not used” – inside were over 350 photographs apparently returned to Amundsen by the publishers of the English edition of his book on the Gjøa expedition.

One of many photographs of the Netsilik Inuit. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.
Roald Amundsen, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting saluting the Norwegian flag at the South Pole in December, 1911. The photo was taken by Olav Bjaaland. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

As well as new images from the Gjøa expedition, several photos from the Fram expedition were found, including a repronegative of the famous photo taken by Olav Bjaaland at the South Pole. This copy from the original may be a step closer to the original than we knew existed.

The photographic material originates mainly from the years 1903 to 1920. Most of the public images are inscribed with date and place, whereas many of the private images lack such information.

A war lecture from 1918 and scientific works by Harald Ulrik Sverdrup from the Maud expedition were also in the chest, as were some more personal items, such as a book containing an alphabetical summary of songs Roald Amundsen liked.

The entire contents of the chest will be digitized and made accessible here📜

Portrait of Roald Amundsen. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.
Program from one of Amundsen’s war lectures in 1918. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

Related resources

1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2015
“Treasure chest” found at Uranienborg
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital