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The Norwegian Institute of Local History

In January 1956, the Norwegian government provided The Norwegian Institute of Local History (NLI) with its own offices, and the first employees began working. Until 1978, the Institute was an independent body that received the majority of its funding through allocations by the Norwegian government. In 1978, the Institute became a purely state-run institution.

An important player in the work of establishing a Norwegian local history institute was Lars Reinton, Ph.D. He was the leader of an umbrella organization composed of local history associations and other organizations engaged in local cultural work. Established in 1920, this organization is today known as the Landslaget for lokalhistorie or the "National Association for Local History" (LLH). Its member organizations have about 85,000 registered members. Reinton proposed the establishment of a local history research institution as well as a faculty position in local history at the University of Oslo. Many well-known figures in cultural life supported this proposal when it was presented to the Norwegian Ministry of Church and Education in 1947. The Ministry welcomed the initiative, but the University of Oslo turned down the proposed faculty position. This led to LLH concentrating its efforts on setting up an institution outside of the university system. Nevertheless, it took almost nine years before the goal was reached.

NLI's duties include, among other things, providing professional advice to those who work with local and regional history, whether they be authors, employers, or others. This can be accomplished by giving tips and providing input in connection with the planning of local history projects and the shaping of proposed or early-stage projects and work contracts. Furthermore, NLI employees read and comment on manuscripts submitted to them with the aim of optimizing the finished work with respect to scholarly contents and pedagogic adaptations and ensuring that current privacy and copyright regulations are adhered to. This consulting work takes place through correspondence and conversation and through courses and seminars arranged by the Institute. Those that need help and information can also find answers to many of their questions by going to the the Institute's consulting  services on the web site http://lokalhistorie.no.

NLI is a national level documentation center for local history with a library of about 19,000 volumes. It has built collections and biographies that are useful for those who are interested in local history. In 2004, NLI launched the project Local History World Wide on the Internet. The main intention was to establish an international network which, among other things, would result in a near world-wide inventory of local history as a popular movement and as an academic discipline. The response was not overwhelming, but valuable contributions were received from Belgium, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. These and other articles are available on www.localhistory.no. NLI is considering a revitalization, modification, and expansion of the idea of Local History World Wide on a wiki platform in conjunction with the website www.lokalhistoriewiki.no.

The web site http://lokalhistoriewiki.no is managed by the Institute, but the main contributors of articles and  picture uploads are volunteers with interest and knowledge in the topics  covered by the wiki. As of January 20, 2011, the wiki has 9,492 articles and 10,050 pictures. Both professional and amateur historians are welcome as contributors; the only requirement is that contributors register themselves as users.

The articles on lokalhistoriewiki.no must be relevant to local history. This means that each article should comply with at least one of the following fundamental criteria:

  • The article is connected to the local history of a specific area or locality in Norway (ranging from large-scale regions to the very local level) or to a specific group or activity operating within Norway.
  • The article is of direct use to people who are engaged in local history work, whether the article is connected to a specific locality or not.

The majority of scholarly work that is performed at NLI is done by researchers and other employees with an academic background. The same can also be said for the authors that accept commissions to write local history books: the majority have a solid higher education in history or related disciplines. Local history is an accepted discipline at universities and colleges in Norway, and NLI has a close working relationship with the academic environment. It is equally important that NLI communicate with and exchange experiences and viewpoints with the many interested amateur researchers that have engaged themselves in local history and do multi-faceted, popular, cultural work.

NLI's employees have contact with the genealogical research environment in Norway, but NLI does not include genealogy among its specific areas of expertise. The Institute does not directly work with the promotion of tourism, nor does it address the tourist's need for local history knowledge. The local history literature in Norway is, however, an enormous knowledge bank for all, including genealogists and tourists. NLI hopes that the local history wiki, in ever increasing degrees, will contribute to making this knowledge more accessible.

Literature

  • Ola Alsvik: Norsk lokalhistorisk institutt og lokalhistorie i Norge (Oslo 1998).
  • Knut Sprauten: Råd, ressurs og rettleiing. NLI gjennom 50 år (Oslo 2006).