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Historisk foto fra Vestfos Cellulosefabrik
Project Space

THE FACTORY– a story in three acts


The Project Space is the voice of the old factory.

In here, we can follow the traces of industry that have left their mark on the walls of the Kunstlaboratorium. In here, we can show ways to revisit the history of paper production in Vestfossen. This time, the stories we had recovered from the Vestfold Archive were about the three phases of the factory’s life, and about an extraordinary piece of theatre.

1 The work at the factory
Conditions were ideal by the River Vestfoss and the Holmefoss waterfall for an industrial enterprise like Vestfos Cellulosefabrik. The factory was founded in March 1886, and for the next 84 years there were several hundred people working to produce paper in the buildings that today house Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium.

Some worked in the forest felling trees or creating from timber the pulp that is the raw material in paper production, while others worked the machines forming pulp into paper. The last stage of the process was sorting and preparing the paper for sale. And there was paper for every need. For newsprint, books, writing, and drawing – even very thin tissue paper for wrapping. The products were exported all around the world, and the administration of this trade was among the many duties of the office staff.

2 The factory closes
The demand for paper from Vestfos Cellulosefabrik sank steadily from the early 1960s. The reason was tough competition from similar factories abroad. It was also expensive to meet new standards governing the discharge of waste water into the river. The financial situation deteriorated rapidly and the concern was declared bankrupt in December 1970, as the first of the large timber processing plants in the Drammen district.

3 Svartkatten (The Black Cat)
The closure created huge headlines in Norway’s newspapers. The workers who had lost their jobs were the object of attention and sympathy from all quarters, including from a group of politically active actors at Nationaltheatret. They formed a new group called Det oppsøkende teater and produced a documentary drama, Svartkatten (The Black Cat). The story was borrowed from the closure of the factory in Vestfossen. An LP also resulted from the group’s work on Svartkatten – together making for a politically minded production unafraid of criticising the factory leadership, and the power of capital in general.

Curated by Ann Tove Manshaus (Vestfoldarkivet) and Nina Bratland (the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology)

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This exhibition was produced and shown in 2023, but some adjustments have been made. We welcome you to our Project Space, and the ongoing series of exhibitions based on archive material from the old Vestfos Cellulosefabrik.