Bastøy in Oslofjorden was the most notorius boy's home and boarding school in Norway in the 20th century. Exhibit opens December 15th.

Bastøy Boys’ Home, in use from 1900 to 1953, was established to serve as a boarding school for disadvantaged young boys with troubled back grounds and potential behavior problems. In order to isolate the boys from the rest of the society, the institution was located on an island in the Oslo fjord, 4 km southeast of the town Horten.

Bastøy was an integrated institution where school, work and leisure activities all took place within the defined area of the island. The background of many of the boys was parental neglect, abuse and poverty. The institution served as their subtitute home and the staff replaced their parents. The goal was give the boys a Christian upbringing through teaching, guidance, hard work and strict discipline. In reality, it was more like a juvenile correction facility with rough conditions.

Through the years, many boys tried to escape from Bastøy. On 21 May 1915 a major rebellion took place on the island. The boys set the barn on fire, and this resulted in a large-scale pursuit by 150 soldiers, torpedo boats, aircrafts, an armored ship and a submarine to catch them. 

Already from early on, Bastøy had a bad reputation. In 1907 the novel Under loven (By Law) by Bjørn Evje was published. He described the conditions in institutions like Bastøy in a raw and undisguised manner. As a result, these institutions were officially investigated and shocking methods for punishment was revealed. Much of the worst abuse was stopped, but penalties continued to be harsh.


The public debate that followed led to some improvement. However, Bastøy failed to shed its negative image. In 1953 Bastøy Boys’ Home was closed permanently. In recent years, public interest for these institutions has increased with a focus particularly on their harsh regimes and the damage it caused these young boy’s lives.

What was it like for a young boy to live and work at Bastøy Boys’ Home? What happened during the rebellion? How do we relate to this topic today? Through film, interviews with former pupils and staff, photographs, objects and texts, the public will become familiar with a subject that is disturbing, touching and engaging.

The exhibit has been made in connection with the Norwegian blockbuster movie “King of Devil’s Island” by Marius Holst which premiered Dec. 17, 2010. Stellan Skarsgård, Benjamin Helstad and Kristoffer Joner holds the main roles. The movie tells the story of Bastøy and the boys who were forced to live there. It's a dramatic and exciting movie about oppression, injustice and rebellion. It tells about youth with wanderlust in the struggle against the established order. Norsk Folkemuseum (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) has collaborated with the producer and the distributor of the film. Clips photographs from the moovie, props from the set and costumes are also included in the exhibit.

The exhibit is financed through the support of Fritt Ord and ABM-utvikling, and opened 15 December 2010.