Norheimsund is a village on the Hardanger Fiord, 75 km north of Bergen, and is an important tourist centre during the summer months. The Fartøyvernsenter (Boat Preservation Centre) was established in 1984 in a former furniture factory made available by the municipality of Kvam. Visitors can see ropes being made on a rope walk, a blacksmith working in his forge, and boats being built and repaired. Several historic boats are exhibited in the museum yard, and visitors are able to hire traditional rowing boats. The first boat restored at the centre was the 76-ton Mathilde, built by Olve Kvinnherad in 1884 for the transport of klippfish (dried cod) from the Lofoten Islands to Bergen. Mathilde now makes voyages with visitors to and from Bergen. The preservation centre specialises in clinker-built small boats of the kind used by sailors from Hardanger who made their livings all along the west coast of Norway. The museum holds some important films showing life on the west coast in the early twentieth century, including one showing a young man’s first trip to buy dried cod in the 1920s, and one that portrays women’s lives in coastal communities. It also holds a collection by Knud Knudsen (1832-1915) the pioneering photographer, who portrayed many aspects of life on the west coast.
The Hardanger Fartøyvernsenter is one of three ship preservation centres recognised by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage in 1996, the others being the Bredalsholmen Dokk Fartøyverbsenter at Kristiansand and the Nordnorsk Fartøyvernsenter at Gratangen.