Kon-Tiki Museum: The Fascinating Legacy of Heyerdahl

Kon Tiki Museum
Illustration of Kon-Tiki Museum. Snøhetta Photos.

Welcome to The Kon-Tiki Museum… Adventure Awaits

By Megan Mentuck

In Oslo, Norway, the Kon-Tiki Museum commemorates the life and legacy of Thor Heyerdahl, one of the most important adventurers of all time.

This Norwegian

explorer is best known for his expedition across the Pacific Ocean in 1947 on the Kon-Tiki Raft.

The Kon-tiki Museum is one of the most-visited museums in all of the country of Norway.

Martin Biehl. Heiko Junge Photos.
Martin Biehl. Heiko Junge Photos.

In fact, according to the museum, they have success with international visitors specifically.

70% of their visitors being international ones.

GoNOMAD spoke with Martin Biehl, the director of the Kon-Tiki Museum.

Biehl said that every week, they have an international visitor from South America, Asia, North America, Europe—you name it.

Biehl then said that these visitors all say a similar thing about why they’re visiting,

“This is the person that made me [them] want to be an explorer.”

The Life and Legacy of Thor Heyerdahl

Thor Heyerdahl, born in 1914, is one of the greatest explorers of our lifetimes.

In 1947, Heyerdahl achieved an exploration feat that many people did not think was possible—he crossed the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki Raft.

Heyerdahl embarked on this journey to prove to his colleagues that the ancient peoples of South America in fact




have the tools and technology to create a vessel that could take them as far as Polynesia.

Illustration of interior museum with Kon-Tiki raft. Snøhetta and MIR Photos.
Illustration of the interior of the museum with Kon-Tiki raft. Snøhetta and MIR Photos.

Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki Raft was built using only the materials and knowledge that was available to people in Pre-Columbian times.

Heyerdahl and his crew were successful in their 101-day-journey from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands of Polynesia.

The Kon-Tiki expedition was successful in disproving skeptics of Heyerdahl’s theories and reshaping the way we understand ancient human civilizations.

Kon-Tiki: The Movie & The Book

Heyerdahl published a book about his expedition titled,

The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas.

This widely-read book has inspired individually-minded people and adventurers alike in its telling of one of modern history’s greatest adventures. Heyerdahl’s retelling of the expedition doesn’t stop there—he also directed a documentary titled Kon-Tiki.

This 1950 film is composed of footage taken during the actual expedition, itself.

The black-and-white flick engages audiences in its retelling of the adventure and offers an idea of what it would have been like to live on a small boat for 101 days.

The Kon-Tiki Museum: Expansions Coming in 2025

In the fall of 2020, Snøhetta, a Norwegian architecture firm, began planning out how to revamp the museum within the next few years.

Astrid Renata Van Veen. Susanne A Fiines Photos.
Astrid Renata Van Veen. Susanne A Fiines Photos.

Astrid Renata Van Veen is the project leader and architect for Snøhetta.

The plans for the museum have several big goals including

revitalizing the existing building, adding a cafe, expanding visiting areas, and even setting ambitious sustainability goals that will drastically reduce the museum’s CO2 emissions.

Sustainability and Thor Heyerdahl

Revitalizing the museum to be more sustainable is important because Heyerdahl, himself, was one of the first to advocate for cleaning up the oceans.

Illustration of exterior Kon-Tiki Museum. Snøhetta and MIR Photos.
Illustration of exterior Kon-Tiki Museum. Snøhetta and MIR Photos.

After the Kon-Tiki expedition, Heyerdahl embarked on another voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

During this journey, Heyerdahl discovered oil clumps on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

He took his findings to the United Nations, making a case for sustainability.

Biehl put it quite simply saying, “He [Heyerdahl] was a spokesman for saving the ocean in the 70s.”

Heyerdahl was also concerned about increasing overconsumption and advocated for both the preservation of nature and the creation of a more sustainable world.

The Garden

Beyond revitalizing the existing building and expanding upon it, Snøhetta has some more unique ideas about how to revamp the Kon-Tiki Museum.

Illustration of Kon Tiki Museum towards new public garden. Snøhetta Photos.
Illustration of Kon Tiki Museum towards the new public garden. Snøhetta Photos.

Another one of their plans for the building is the creation of garden space.

The lush and green area will encourage visitors to appreciate their surroundings and gain a deeper appreciation for the wonders of the natural world.

The large, outdoor space will also allow for larger events and gatherings.

Introduction of Auditoriums and Discussion Space

In addition to the introduction of a public garden, the museum will also have an auditorium overlooking the garden where visitors, old and young,

can meet to discuss the history of Thor Heyerdahl and the greater implications of climate change on the world we will leave behind.

Discussions regarding our culture of over-consumption and lack of concern over the ocean’s health are both important in today’s world and directly relate to Heyerdahl’s findings.

The addition of an auditorium is instrumental in achieving one of the main goals of the museum: to inspire visitors to be forward-thinking individuals concerned with the preservation of our natural environment.

Illustration of cafe at Kon-Tiki Museum. Snøhetta Photos.
Illustration of cafe at Kon-Tiki Museum. Snøhetta Photos.

These values are inherently connected to Heyerdahl’s life and findings.

Biehl told me, “He [Heyerdahl] was convinced that we have to realize that there’s one civilization on the planet.”

Exhibitions for Children

Educating today’s youth is also a top priority of the museum. There are countless opportunities for young people to learn about the life and legacy of Thor Hyerdahl.

In addition to guided tours specifically designed for children, Biehl said, “We have a VR experience that’s very cool that’s about the crash landing of the Kon-Tiki raft.”

“One can’t buy a ticket to paradise. You have to find it within yourself.” – Thor Heyerdahl

There’s no limit to the lessons we can draw from Heyerdahl’s life. His forward-thinking mindset allowed him to uncover truths about ancient civilizations that no one believed were possible.

Thor Heyerdahl. Kon-Tiki Museum Photos.
Thor Heyerdahl. Kon-Tiki Museum Photos.

The Kon-Tiki Museum commemorates his life by showcasing his discoveries, including the Kon-Tiki raft.

A visit to the Kon-Tiki Museum will inspire visitors to have a greater appreciation for the natural world and a better understanding of the life and legacy of Heyerdahl.

The expansions and renovations being made to the Kon-Tiki Museum will only add to the experience, making it truly unforgettable!

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