Five thousand new photos!

The Kon-Tiki Museum has enriched its archive with 5.000 new photographs of Thor Heyerdahl’s life, work and travels. The photos are the collection of the outstanding Italian photographer Walter Leonardi, and stems mainly from the 1980s and 1990s.

Available for journalists and researchers at the Thor Heyerdahl Archives.

Thor Heyerdahl with a Tuareg at Tassili, South-East Algeria.

Photo and film is a vital part of Thor Heyerdahl's legacy

The Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947 made Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002) a household name throughout the world, and he became the most famous Norwegian of his time. Heyerdahl has since become a historic figure; in 2011 the ThorHeyerdahl Archives were inscribed into UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Audacious ocean crossings in primitive crafts made Thor Heyerdahl famous, but what he will be remembered for are his unique story-telling capabilities and fantastic tales that touched people in all corners of the world.

The right pictures and film footage were, from the start, extremely important to Thor Heyerdahl, the communicator, and since 1950 the Kon-Tiki Museum has used this material to further communicate Heyerdahl’s story to over 17 million visitors.

The medieval village of Colla Micheri where Thor Heyerdahl settled in 1958.

In Colla Micheri, Thor Heyerdahl worked six days a week, starting at 6 o'clock in the morning and putting the pen down only when the sun began to fade.

Greeting the donkeys in the woods of Colla Micheri, Savona, Italy.

Thor Heyerdahl was a passionate wood-carver. Here in front of his Norwegian-style house in Colla Micheri.

The Walter Leonardi Collection

The Thor Heyerdahl Archives contain all of the visual material from his first expedition to Fatu Hiva in 1937, through the Kon-Tiki, Aku-Aku and Ra expeditions, and up to the Tigris voyage in 1978. The Archives’ contents were personally donated by Heyerdahl. In addition, the museum has actively collected images relating to his life and work. Internationally renowned portrait photographer Walter Leonardi (b. 1945) worked closely with Heyerdahl for over 25 years. Their collaboration resulted in a large body of high-quality photographs from expeditions, other travels and private meetings. These images fill a gap in the Kon-Tiki Museum’s own collection.

Thor Heyerdahl, together with the nephew of Tei Te'tua Kipote, on his way to revisit his lost paradise in the Ouia Valley, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands.

Looking at rock-carvings, Grotta del Genovese, Levanzo, Italy.

Resting among the stones, Yemen.

Studying natural rock-formation at Tassili, Algeria.

Over the course of his career, WalterLeonardi has worked for such high-profile publications as LIFE Magazine, National Geographic, Newsweek and Time. Leonardi is especially known for his distinctive portraits of famous persons, in particular film stars. Later in his career, he became a professor of photography at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Torino, Italy.

Walter Leonardi’s collection consists of nearly 5.000 photographs taken on Thor Heyerdahl’s journeys and expeditions to Easter Island, Peru, South America, Egypt and Pakistan. In addition to images from expeditions and travels, there are photos depicting Heyerdahl’s life in the Italian village of Colla Micheri, where he settled in 1958. The collection is unique, and many photographs document the final phase, between 1984 and 1998, of Heyerdahl’s active life.

Dancing at a festival in Tucumé, Peru, on a day off from excavating pyramids.

It was therefore a momentous and important occasion when Walter Leonardi and the Kon-Tiki Museum entered into an agreement on the acquisition of 5.000 digital images relating to Thor Heyerdahl in 2019. The acquisition has been made possible with financial support from Arts Council Norway, in addition to the museum’s own resources. The photographs are now safeguarded for posterity!

Thor Heyerdahl, explorer and scientist, 1914-2002.

Walter Leonardi and Thor Heyerdahl.