Kristiansund lies on the island of Gomalandet on the west coast of Norway, 130 km south-west of Trondheim. The principal industry of the communities along the fiords and on the islands of this region was for centuries the drying of cod caught in neighbouring waters for export, principally to southern Europe. The techniques of cutting cod, dressing it with salt and drying it in summer sunlight, were developed in the 16th century by fishermen from Portugal and the Basque country working on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. ‘Klippfisk’ – cut fish – is best known internationally by its Spanish or Portuguese names – Bacalao or Bacalhau. It is commonly called ‘stockfish’ in English. These techniques were first used in this part of Norway from 1691 and production was continuous from 1730. Many of the early entrepreneurs in the trade were Scots.
The first of the piers where the museum is located was built by William Gordon in 1749, and the galleried warehouse which is its main building – the Milnbrygga – was named after a Scots merchant called Walter Miln. The principal indoor displays consist of photographs taken when the industry still prospered, many of them by the photographer Ernst Schwitter (1918-96) who recorded activities at Kristiansund in 1950. The trade continues, although on a much reduced scale, and visitors are able to taste samples of fish treated in the traditional manner. There is a lively programme of festivals and activities for children.