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Sardine Tins, Norwegian Canning Museum

In the Footsteps of Christian Bjelland: Exploring Heritage at the Norwegian Canning Museum

As a young girl, I harbored a peculiar fondness for sardines, particularly those packaged under the King Oscar brand. However, it wasn't solely the taste that captivated me; rather, it was the fact that my family name, Bjelland, graced the tin. Growing up in a small town where everyone knew each other, the uniqueness of my surname was not lost on me. Despite there being another family with a similar name, Fjelland, within our community, the distinctiveness of "Bjelland" stood out, especially beyond the confines of our hometown where it was often mispronounced and misspelled.

Fast forward to 2022, during a trip to Stavanger with my sisters, we encountered a striking statue of Christian Bjelland. Intrigued by the possibility of a familial connection, we couldn't resist snapping a photo beside it. Our subsequent investigation revealed that while we weren't direct heirs to his industrial empire, Christian Bjelland had left an indelible mark on Norway's canning industry, earning esteemed recognition from the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav for his contributions.

Christian's journey from humble beginnings, leaving school after the fifth grade, to becoming Norway's foremost producer of canned goods was truly inspiring. He founded a fish export business in 1882 and pioneered the introduction of sardines in hermetically sealed tins in 1893. His legacy endured through successive generations, with his sons, grandsons, and great-grandson continuing the business under the banner of Chr. Bjelland & Co. A/S, which has since diversified into a thriving conglomerate of enterprises.

Nestled amid the quaint streets of Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger), the Norwegian Canning Museum offers a captivating narrative of Christian Bjelland's entrepreneurial spirit and the evolution of the canning industry. Home for the museum is a forming canning facility which was in operation from 1916 to 1958.  From interactive exhibits for children to a cozy café and charming gift shop, the museum promises an enriching experience for visitors of all ages.

My sisters and I relished the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the history of Christian Bjelland and his pioneering contributions. We recommend 1 1/2-2 hours to fully experience the museum.  

If you ever find yourself fortunate enough to explore the Norwegian Canning Museum, I eagerly await your impressions in the comments below.


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