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NorWhite: How Norway Made the World Whiter

Project Period:     2023-2028    
Funding: The Research Council of Norway (SAMKUL)
Contact person(s), Østfoldmuseene:     
Marianne Løken, marianne.loken@ostfoldmuseene.no
Hege Steen Langvik, hege.steen.langvik@ostfoldmuseene.no
Project webpage: https://www.tio2project.com/

About the project

The research project How Norway Made the World Whiter (NorWhite) studies a Norwegian innovation; the white pigment titanium dioxide in a historical, aesthetic, and critical lens—focusing on how the pigment transformed surfaces in art, architecture, and design.

Main Institutional parters are The University of Bergen and the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and Project partners are Jøssingfjord Science Museum, Dalane Folk Museum, Østfoldsmuseene, The Norwegian Mining Museum, Velferden, and ROM for kunst og arkitektur.

The overall objective

The primary research question is: What are the cultural and aesthetic changes instigated by titanium white and TiO2 surfaces – and how can both the material in itself and these changes be conceptualized and made visible?

NorWhite connects challenging topics - whiteness, technological innovation, and mass-exploitation of natural resources - in a single case study. The project will do this through an interdisciplinary research design grounded in an original and creative humanities approach that merges art history and artistic research.

Work Packages

To operationalize the overall objective is divided in interlinked Work Packages with different size and scope: WP1) Archival research – building a database from a vast never-before studied archive, WP2) Norwegian white – investigating narratives of white aesthetics, modernism, and national identity, WP3) White context – understanding white color in art, architecture and design in a wider context, WP4) Artistic research – visualizing aesthetic properties from TiO2 to smart materials, and WP5) contextualizing by research-based exhibition making and extensive public engagement and outreach in collaborations with public institutions and industry stakeholders.

Østfoldmuseene is a key participant in WP1. As the need for public and scholarly knowledge about the Norwegian industrial history of TiO2 extraction, production, and usage is substantial, WP1 will build a public database of the never-before studied archive material in collaboration with public and private partner institutions, including the rich—and challenging—advertisement material by Titan Co. The archival holdings are located across the country (the Norwegian Museum of Mining, Østfoldmuseene, the State Archive in Stavanger, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the Norwegian Archive of Mining) and most of the archival material has not been organized and catalogued according to today’s archival standards. In WP1, archivists will photograph and catalogue the archive material via the computer programs Primus and Asta in order to secure public availability for future studies. A selection of the archival material will be made public in NorWhite’s exhibitions, on the digital platform Digitalt Museum, on the project website, in articles, and books. As such, WP1 will not simply present results to the public but be deeply operational for the other WPs. The archive database will build key foundations for the theorization and artistic/design visualizations in WP4 and 5—creating new synergies between archival studies, artistic research, and public outreach.


By weaving together historical, critical, aesthetic, and artistic methods with public engagement, curating, and research-based exhibitions, NorWhite will reveal a complex and challenging story of how a local Norwegian innovation came to have planetary consequences.


The major outcomes of the project will be an international symposium, a two-weeks research studio open to the public, two edited books, and two research-based exhibitions.

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    Illustration: “Titan Makes Black to White.” Original drawing from 1920. Østfoldmuseene archive.