World Heritage in Norway

Today, in 2019, Norway has eight sites on the World Heritage List.

The sites are: Bergen Wharf (1979), Urnes stave church (1979), Røros mining town (1980), Vega Islands (2004), West Norwegian fjords (2005) Struve’s Meridian arc (2005), Rjukan-Notodden industrial heritage (2015) and of course the Rock Art in Alta (1985). Alta is the only municipality, and one of few places in the world to have more than one world heritage site.  Many people think there are more sites in Norway that deserve to be on the list, and because of this there is a so-called “tentative list”. These sites are in consideration of inclusion in the list.  The tentative list in Norway includes for example Jan Mayen and Bouvetøya (as part of an international nomination), Svalbard and the Lofoten Islands.

In Norway it is the Directorate for Cultural Heritage which is responsible for the administration of the world heritage sites. In 2007 World Heritage Norway was specifically constituted to supervise the interests of the sites. In 2014, three World Heritage Centres were established, including one here in Alta, and there are plans for each of the eight sites to have their own centre.  World Heritage Sites are important for the travel industry and perhaps the highest recognition there is.  But it is important to remember that world heritage status has not been achieved because of popularity, but because the site possesses its own unique and universal international value.

World Heritage properties must display Outstanding Universal Value, which is the basis of any nomination. According to UNESCO, “Outstanding Universal Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole.” In order to be considered of Outstanding Universal Value, a property must meet one or more World Heritage Criteria. Criterion (iii) of the Rock Art of Alta.