The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) is an independent research institute with cultural heritage knowledge as its main domain.
In our research projects we collaborate with private and public actors as well as other researchers in Norway and internationally.
NIKU encompasses a breadth of disciplines such as architecture, sociology, ethnology, social geography, archaeology and conservation, in addition to natural sciences and technology.
We wish to work with complex issues across sectors and subjects because we believe this is necessary in order to solve larger societal challenges.
Research priority areas
NIKU has chosen four topics that we are focusing on in the period up to 2023. These topics do not cover all of NIKUs enterprises, but represent fields of study that we wish to prioritize, that we will develop further with the aid of specific initiatives.
NIKU is carrying out archaeological investigations in the Norwegian medieval cities, medieval churches, cemeteries, monastery- and fortress sites. One of our areas of focus is the production of knowledge based on rescue archaeology. We want to move the Norwegian medieval research front based on discoveries made in the last few years. Among other things, archaeologists with NIKU have participated in making the first discovery of the bacteria that caused the Black Death in Norwegian skeletal remains, and in 2018 NIKU organized an interdisciplinary conference that displayed a broad range of the last few years of knowledge production regarding the Middle Ages.
Climate and environment
Employees at NIKU research climate- and environmental-related issues connected to cultural heritage.
Climate changes also lead to changes to cultural heritage. Heritage structures are in danger of becoming damaged or destroyed by moisture, floods or landslides. Researchers at NIKU monitor such threats and the damage they inflict upon various cultural relics. For instance, cultural relics in the high north are under particular pressure, thereby causing particular research interest.
In addition to carrying out research on the effect climate change and other environmental challenges have on cultural heritage sites, we are also working to assess how the use and reuse of cultural heritage can be made more sustainable. One example of this is how our research shows that upgrading older houses can be as environmentally friendly as building new ones according to the present standards.
Much of the research done by NIKU is also relevant in order to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goal 11, where one subsidiary goal is to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard cultural and natural heritage.
Researchers at NIKU work with a variety of digital methods and innovation within the field of cultural heritage. One of the areas we have focused on in recent years regards using geophysical exploration to find traces of the past under the ground without necessarily digging them up. Among other things, such methods resulted in the discovery of the Gjellestad Ship in 2018. NIKU also collaborates regularly with cultural heritage management organs regarding the use of such methods to increase planning efficiency in connection to infrastructure development. In addition, modern technology provides new possibilities for the documentation and dissemination of cultural heritage, which is also a frequent task for the researchers at NIKU.
In 2020, NIKU will organize the conference Critical Digital Heritage, which will display challenges and possibilities connected to digital methods and technological developments.
Cultural heritage management
Management actors at the national, regional and local levels are among NIKU’s most important employers and collaborators. Therefore it is also important for us to participate actively in research that contributes to developing cultural heritage management, which is the fourth of our specialized focus areas.
Cultural heritage management encompasses many things, as does this field of research conducted by NIKU. Our researchers immerse themselves in everything from the management of national parks, economic system services and Sami culture in environmental impact assessment, to the cultural heritage of immigration and a range of perspectives connected to critical cultural heritage research.
NIKU has a strategic institute program in cultural heritage management.
NIKU is a private foundation under the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Ministry of Climate and Environment.