concrete history of science Private archives UBedu

From concrete wharves to Condeep – the Research File from the Norwegian Committee on Concrete in Seawater (NUFBIS ) on the Norwegian Document Heritage

The NUFBIS Research File at the NTNU University Library, Trondheim, Norway, was in 2014 included in the “Norwegian Document Heritage“, which is the Norwegian part of UNESCOs “Memory of the World”. The ground for this inclusion was: “The results from the extensive field investigations of marine concrete structures along the Norwegian coastline were crucial for use of concrete in offshore structures.

The file is a unique source for the study of early Norwegian offshore and concrete industry, and thus the start of the Norwegian oil adventure. The file has high social relevance as a technical-scientific research file and is a unique source for understanding why Norway got such a prominent international position within oil and gas exploration. The field investigations from the 1960s also contributed to the basis for new international regulations for offshore concrete structures in 1973”

This is the history of the 1960s project where the condition of more than 200 marine concrete structures along the entire Norwegian coast was investigated during the years 1962 to 1968. The marine concrete structures were examined over and underwater, samples were taken and photographed. All this documentation is now stored in the archive “Norwegian Concrete for Concrete in Sea Water”.

Project manager Odd E. Gjørv and colleague dressed in diving equipment. The extensive surveys of concrete wharves along the Norwegian coast also included surveys of the quays from the underside. This meant that diving equipment had to be put into service. (see page 18 of the book: “Durability Design of Concrete Structures in Severe Environments, Second Edition 2014).

The project led to a final report written in English. This was crucial for the results of the project being read and understood abroad.

The front page of the report (“Durability of Reinforced Concrete Wharves in Norwegian Harbors”) published in English in 1968, which was so important in the choice of concrete offshore, and so for Norway’s oil age.

The conclusions of the project led to a decision to use concrete as building materials nationally and internationally in offshore oil platforms.

The conclusions and recommendations of the Norwegian field studies also helped to form the technical basis for the new international regulations for offshore concrete structures in 1973, which was later adopted by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and Det Norske Veritas in 1973.

The first concrete platform (“Ekofisk”) on the NCS was completed in 1973. This was a pioneer work which led to a consortium of Norwegian companies immediately afterwards receiving the first order on a “Condeep” from Mobil. Later, 27 concrete platforms have been built, all of which have contributed to the technical and economic recovery of gas and oil on the Norwegian continental shelf. According to the Norwegian Oil Museum, this was the largest export contract for Norwegian companies.

Foto: The “Ekofisktank” ,the first offshore concrete platform on its way from Stavanger in 1973. This represented a turning point in the use of concrete offshore under rough conditions.

Experience from the use of concrete in exposed environments has later also contributed to giving Norway a special position in terms of expertise in the use of concrete in exposed environments.

Such a project manager from then on, Professor Odd E. Gjørv says: “The results of this research project would later prove to be of much greater significance than it was possible to imagine”

Portrait of late Odd E. Gjørv ( 1935-2016)

The Norwegian Unesco Commission for Admission to Norway’s Document Heritage assumes that this archive has high societal relevance as a technical-scientific research archive is a unique source for studying the early Norwegian offshore and concrete industry, and with the start of the Norwegian oil adventure. Furthermore, it is an important contribution when Norwegian oil history is to be written.


Odd E. Gjørv pers. med.

The archive: Norsk Utvalg for Betong i Sjøvann – UBIT/Tek-0060

The archive: Odd E. Gjørv – Tek-0059 Odd E. Gjørv

Gjørv, Odd E.: “Durability of Reinforced Concrete Wharves in Norwegian Harbours (1968) Ingeniørforlaget A/S Oslo 1968.

Kulturrådet: Arkivet etter Norsk Utvalg for Betong i Sjøvann,


Pictures UBedu

The Unidentified

Archival boxes with photographs on shelves in an archive
Photo archives in the Dora library. Photo: Nils Kristian Eikeland/NTNU UB (CC BY-SA 4.0)

There are approximately 1 million historical photographs in the library’s archives. Some of these have lived in an unchanged system since they were created some 100 years ago.

Perhaps they were given a reference number the day they were created, registered in a protocol with the portrayed’s names, date and location. Sometimes someone else has payed for the photographs, which means that an identification isn’t necessarily correct even if the name is written in the protocol. This can be distracting, but is nevertheless a clue as to who might be in the photograph.

Close-up of a handwritten protocol
Photographer Hilfling-Rasmussens customer protocol from 1912. Photo: Nils Kristian Eikeland/NTNU UB (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Other images come without information about whom or what. Perhaps they still have something in common that can lead us on the right path.

The archive of Børre Svendsen Lien and Marit Johannesdatter Kåsen, consisting of portraits from around the year 1900, where made available at the Ålen library in the 1980’s. This way, people in the local community could come by, have look, and give pieces of information about who could be in the photographs. Some had pictures on their walls of their relatives at home and could give information that way.

Schema with image details next to a photograph from around 1900
Identification work in Ålen in the 1980s. Photo: Nils Kristian Eikeland/NTNU UB (CC BY-SA 4.0)

If one doesn’t have any concrete details about photographs at all, there’s still hope.

Local knowledge is invaluable when it comes to identify where a photograph was taken. A retired colleague of mine grew up in Trondheim and work amongst other things with pictures of the city for decades. This way, one builds a strong ability to recognise various places in and around the city, even if areas have gone through large changes over the years.

Most people might not have worked with pictures professionally, but simply recognise places they’ve lived, visited or worked. Feedback from historical societies as well as individuals with good knowledge to certain areas help us a lot in our work.

Newspaper stand with boys standing outside holding newspapers
Newspaper stand at the east end of Bakke Bridge in Trondheim 1913. Photo: Hilfling-Rasmussen/NTNU UB, cropped photograph (CC BY-SA 4.0)

There are quite a few unidentified group portraits. Here, age, sexes, clothes, surroundings or familiar faces can be at help. Recognising one or more people in a photograph makes it easier to unravel the mystery.

The photograph below had no details, but the entrance in the background was recognised, and then some of the men in the group where identified. The photograph was taken outside former NTH outside Gamle Elektro (The Old Electro) at Gløshaugen in Trondheim. Because of some of the people in the group, we can narrow the date to between 1910-1917. NTH opened in 1910, and the 4th man from the left on 1st row, Jens Bache-Wiig, left in 1917. With a few pieces of information, the photograph becomes accessible to people interested in related subjects.

Men in suits posing outside a concrete building
Group portrait at former NTH, outside Gamle Elektro (Old Electro) at Gløshaugen. Photo: Hilfling-Rasmussen/NTNU UB (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A final example of how to find information about photographs that have no accompanying details is to look at the technical aspects.

The oldest photographs we have, e.g. daguerreotypes, often give som clues that allows us to narrow down the date and perhaps also identify the photographer. The European collaboration Daguerreobase allows us to register all technical details we can find, this way making it possible for researchers to find common features, perhaps with another photograph that has an identified creator.

These common features can be everything from props, distinctive packaging, the quality of the photograph itself or an imprint in the metal plate the image lies on.

We are very thankful for feedback and contributions. On October 3, we’re launching a new search engine for photographs and special collections material that allows anyone to comment and improve our details. Thanks for your help!


Three framed daguerreotype portraits with different framing
Three daguerreotypes from different daguerreotypists/photographers. 1. Photo: Unknown/NTNU UB. 2: Photo: Carl Neupert/NTNU UB. 3. Photo: Unknown, possibly Hans Krum/NTNU UB. (All: CC BY-SA 4.0)