World citizen, explorer, writer and scientist, Thor Heyerdahl’s legacy is an archive of unusual richness that encompasses photographs, films, manuscripts and documents of historical, artistic and cultural value. The archive is part of the Memory of the World, UNESCO’s list of immaterial cultural heritage.
Thor Heyerdahl Archives
October 4th 1989 Thor Heyerdahl donated his life work, including his manuscripts, document archive, and all photographs from his scientific expeditions to the Kon-Tiki Museum. Included in the donation were also his private book collection, a collection of editions of his own books, newspaper clippings, and film and audio tapes. The archive is divided into seven collections.
- Document archive
- Photography collection
- Book-editions collection
- Newspaper clippings
- Film and audio collection
- Thor Heyerdahl’s Film Collection at the Norwegian National Library
An explorer and writer
The Thor Heyerdahl Archive provides a unique insight into the life and work of the most famous explorer, adventurer and writer of non-fiction in the 20th century. His expeditions and books were a source of inspiration for generations of adventurers, scientists, and people all around the globe.
The Kon-Tiki Expedition (1947) was an amazing adventure of six young men pitted against the greatest force on earth – the Pacific Ocean. The book manuscript, photos and film documentary of the Kon-Tiki Expedition in 1947 had tremendous impact on history and popular culture in the 1950s and 1960s, making Kon-Tiki synonymous with adventure.
Heyerdahl’s maritime expeditions (Ra, Ra II, Tigris) and his archaeological projects produced iconic photos of modern exploration. Documenting these projects also resulted in unique photo and film material being collected from places soon after affected by modernisation. The communities on Easter Island and Rapa Iti in the Pacific Ocean (1955-56) and the Marsh Arab-culture in Iraq (1976-77) are examples of the modern transformation of local peoples, cultures, and places.
The document archive contains Heyerdahl’s original book manuscripts, papers, and speeches from 1947 to the end of his life. Correspondence and notes associated with organizing his world-famous expeditions, his research into prehistoric voyaging and contacts between cultures, and his fight against pollution of the ocean and a world with less borders makes up the rest of the archive.
Contents of the document archive
Thor Heyerdahl’s document archive contains: book manuscripts, articles and speeches manuscripts, diaries, note books, letters, research notes and miscellaneous files. The collection has been sorted into 17 main categories. Sub-division is done by year and expeditions/names.
Download the complete list of categories of the Thor Heyerdahl Document Archive.
- Book manuscripts
- Article manuscripts
- Lectures and speeches
- Film Manuscripts
- Personal notes
- Science and academics
- Politics (One World, etc.)
- Prizes, awards, and honors
- Membership (associations, unions, clubs etc.)
- Books, pamphlets, etc. (not TH)
The Thor Heyerdahl Archive contains twenty-three of Thor Heyerdahl’s book manuscripts, from Kon-Tiki. On Raft Across the South Seas, first published in Norwegian in 1948, to his last book Jakten på Odin [The Hunt for Odin] published the year before his passing. In the archives there are also three unpublished manuscripts.
Download a list of manuscripts.
Heyerdahl's book collection
A part of Thor Heyerdahl’s private book collection that he no longer used actively was donated to the Kon-Tiki Museum in 1983, at the same time as his photo collection and document archive were given to the museum.
The collection consists of 1.131 books mainly covering topics of exploration, archaeology, anthropology and history in the Pacific, the Americas, and the Old World cultures around the Mediterranean.
A list of books in the collection can be downloaded here.
Heyerdahl Book's Editions Collection
Thor Heyerdahl became an international best seller with Kon-Tiki. On Raft Across the South Seas (1950). To date it has been translated into 74 languages and published in a host of different editions. Many of his subsequent books have also enjoyed an international audience, and received widely publication and translation.
Thor Heyerdahl Book’s Edition Collection contains various language editions of his various books, particularly from the 1950s to the 1980s. Today, this collection is housed in the General Document Archive, while a part of it is on display in the Library exhibition.
A list of the editions of Kon-Tiki. On Raft Across the South Seas can be downloaded here.