The MAR-ECO Project is an ambitious international project to study and document marine life along the mid-Atlantic Ridge from Iceland to the Azores. Bergen Museum will be responsible for curating the collected samples from the cruises.
Museum Director, Kåre Hesjedal, feels that this collaboration will be an exciting opportunity for the Museum. He underlined the parallel with the cruises led by Fridtjof Nansen, and Murray and Hjort, nearly 100 years ago.
Visitors to the Zoology wing of Bergen Museum today will see a sampling of the extensive collection these intrepid men brought back with them following their historic cruises through the polar seas. (The extent of the collection is all the more remarkable when one realises that much more of the collection is stored out of public view.) It is a fantastic testament to the incredible biological diversity to be found in northern waters.
Biological cruises in the 21st Century
One of the research vessels involved in the MAR-ECO cruises will be the new vessel that has been commissioned by the University of Bergen (UiB) and the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), the G.O. Sars. The state-of-the-art vessel will be launched next year. About two months of ship time on the new vessel will be consecrated to MAR-ECO work.
The planned MAR-ECO cruises have no less inherent excitement and challenge than their historic counterparts. Technological advances will affect the ways that physical samples will be collected. They will also make it possible to collect "virtual" samples via underwater photography and the use of remotely operated deep-sea vessels. This will enable researchers to "see" more of the underwater world than they have ever been able to do before. The cruises will also engage in extensive data collecting. The data collected will include monitoring many environmental factors as well as that relating to population and distribution studies.
Museum researchers Ingvar Byrkjedal and Endre Willassen will be particularly concerned with the MAR-ECO project. Hesjedal says that in addition to the physical challenges inherent in storing and cataloguing incoming samples, the museum must also determine the best ways to deal with the "virtual" samples. The Museum is currently developing a new specialised department, the Dokumentasjons- og IT-avdelingen (DOIT), for dealing with "electronic" collections. They have a new video server and are developing state-of-the-art techniques for presenting, accessing and storing material.
Planning an exhibition
Hesjedal explains that the Museum recently completed an internal re-organisation. They are now developing a new strategic plan for the next few years. This plan will include research directions, teaching programmes and exhibition development. A possible project might be to renovate the Zoology wing. This could be tied to the development of an exhibition of the MAR-ECO material. Hesjedal thinks that such an exhibition should be timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Norway's independence celebrations in 2005. In particular, Bergen's theme during the centenary celebrations will be "Norway and the Sea". In this context he envisages having, for example, a special event highlighting the explorer and scientist, Nansen and his contributions to Bergen Museum.
A renovation of the Geology wing is also being discussed, and a new exhibit is planned. Such an exhibit could be designed to compliment a zoological one relating to MAR-ECO.
Hesjedal also spoke of the Museum's recent experience in developing a kind of "travelling" exhibition. They recently developed an exhibition that presented information about Norwegian Fisheries. It has been used extensively by the Norwegian Foreign Department.
As always, it is necessary to find financial support for undertakings such as this MAR-ECO curating responsibility. Hesjedal feels confident that such an undertaking represents not only UiB, but also, national interests and should therefore qualify for funding support from a variety of venues.
It is a potentially very interesting opportunity for the Museum, and certainly MAR-ECO will benefit from the Museum's experience and expertise.