Summary of Restoration of Liepaja’s harbor Warehouse “”Swallow””

Project Name: "Restoration of the harbor warehouse in the exhibition of the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia” 

Project Nr: EEZLV04/INP/2013/4

Projects Timeframe: 01.01.2014.-31.03.2017

Project’s location: Latvia’s Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

Project’s Objectives: The goal of the save one of the museum’s oldest exhibits and ensure it is available to the public. Project activities are: Restoration and preservation of the Liepaja’s Harbor storage exhibit, any applications for the exhibits purposes, Professional Experience Exchange Conference (Including experts from Norway and other neighboring countries), management and publicity. Post restoration, no less than 105,00 visitors per year secure accessibility to one cultural heritage object that has not been exhibited until now. The buildings exterior area and landscape is at least 150m2 wide and restored. The building’s first floor is made so the visitors can see the storage rooms. An architectural heritage conference of professional experience is organized.

Project Justification: Liepaja’s harbor warehouse (Also known as the Swallow's Warehouse) was built in 1697, on the side of Liepaja’s harbor canal. The museum set it up in 1940. The building is unique to Europe culture and economic ties in Latvia’s territory and fits into the museums exhibits, because the building’s wall constructions, Column and small detail formations made from wood can be seen in many other Kurzemes buildings. At the same time, the building is genuine and representative of its warehouse type, which traders in the 17th century built in Riga, Liepaja and other Baltic Sea port cities.

Liepaja’s harbor warehouse is one of the oldest building exhibits on the territory. At this time, the building is in pretty bad shape, and for that reason it is unavailable to visitors at this time. The building has three floors with a total area of around 500m2 and unsuitable to store large-scale objects from the collection of ethnographic museums wooden objects (the largest collection of all the regions in Latvia, about 100 units) that are not preserved and which cannot be viewed by visitors.

After the project’s completion, Latvia’s Ethnographic Open-Air Museum has a truly unique building, the building has been restored and the exhibit has been saved, and for the first time it will be available to the public for visitation, and the indoor exhibit can finally be shown. We hope to have the first floor available for the public to roam free, while the second and third floors can be accessed with a museum employee.

Within the framework of the project, the Museum intends to organize an international experience exchange conference for the colleagues and other interested parties of Latvia and neighboring countries, inviting experts from Norway to preserve wooden architectural heritage (folk construction), where considerable professional experience has been accumulated in this area. In doing so, we will strengthen the ties between our countries and with Norway’s cultural heritage institutions and professionals.

The conference, which is called “Wooden Architectural Heritage Preservation” will take place at the Ethnographic museum on September 1st and 2nd, 2016. During that time, speakers from Latvia, Norway and Estonia will share knowledge of their work methods, and talk about the various problems with the construction of the wooden buildings. Participants visiting the Harbor Warehouse will evaluate the restoration process and completed works.

The project gave the opportunity for Latvian specialists to gain knowledge specifically about preservation of 17th century buildings. Furthermore, they were able to collect historically cultural objects on the museum territory, which were being stored by the State, that will also be preserved and added to the museum’s important cultural exhibit. At the same time, a new service was created for museum visitors from Latvia and abroad.

The result of the project is preserved, authentic and original wooden structures. The Open-air museum’s exhibit provides an insight on how farmers lived their everyday lives during that time period. However, there was a connection to the rest of the world from the village or homestead, for a regular visits to churches, a required trip to the mills and towns with their own products or those from the manor, which continued its journey from the ports of Riga, Ventspils and Liepaja. Therefore, after the installation of church and the pub, the Ministry of Education's Board of Monuments (hereinafter - the Board of Monuments) did not find any controversy over the transfer of the Liepaja harbor warehouse to the Open-Air Museum and on the shore of Lake Jugla.

The building is significant due to the natural construction methods, which differ from other types of log buildings in Latvia due to the way the logs are connected and joined together. The Warehouse walls are constructed under the structural influence of Western Europe, adapting it to local conditions and possibilities. The 20,20 x 11,05 m perimeter consists of a four-sided oak-tree foundation, on which the corners of the building, the doorways and log extensions all rest upon. It was then loaded with pine or spruce supports from all sides. The building’s longevity was ensured by stonework (at a wheel height) that made a solid foundation for the floors. The building was then covered by a Dutch tile roof. However, the shape of the building changed over the centuries. In the 18th century, the roof shape was partially redesigned and mezzanine was built, and in the 19th century additions to the port side were added.

In 1940, with the installation of an old building at the Open-Air Museum, the annexes were also laid on rock foundations, but the additions were built on a assortment of random, extra masonry bricks. For decades, moisture was damaged by supports, absorbing into the beams and connections, until it became visible damage. In 2006, the situation with structures became critical: on the lake side the foundations were crumbling, and there were decaying lower parts of the pillars and several beams.

In 2009, the annexes were restored - they partially restructured the foundations, partially restored and replaced the damaged beams and parts of the rafters. The impressive foundation stonework (possibly made with material slightly different from the original) was perfectly smooth, however, in 2014, the restoration and strengthening of its joints was carried out. Salt and herring for centuries were significant imports and proof of it - as salt crystals were released into the interior of the building, distorting the structure of the top layer of the wood - making it expand. The relatively simple, but labor-intensive, method of wet patches was used for salt extraction - the salt moves from the surface, to the environment with a lower concentration. The patches were repeatedly used to cover all internal walls, and the effects of salt on the wall segments (for the time being!) were significantly reduced.

Receiving financial support from the EEA European Economic Area Financial Mechanism Program "Preserving and Upgrading the Cultural and Natural Heritage", it was possible to evaluate in detail the technical condition of the building and to develop a reconstruction project that ensures its use as a repository, the first floor of which is open to all interested parties. Architect Kristin Wienberg's guideline - Minimum replacement of damaged constructional elements or parts of them, assimilating to their existing substance. "The building is old and it has to look like it has wearing, scratching and fixing ... as much as possible to keep the original even if it is not in an ideal technical condition ..." met the demands of preservation and use of the museum's exhibit.

During the restoration, a number of additions were added to the tops of the building, dense boards corresponding to the age of the building were added, above which the lattice grid was placed from various Kurzemes buildings from 18-19 centuries. The damaged roof tiles were also replaced. In the warehouse portion, missing supports were replaced or added, all the first beams were replaced, but the most prominent work was the preservation of the oak foundations - lifting the building and replacing the damaged sections. Renovated and refurbished iron trusses, with many reinforced pillars. The vertical supports for the outer walls were replaced to eliminate the warping of the wood, and to add support, inside the building there were additional connections to the pillars and the trusses. Several overlays were refurbished in the main facades over the doors, and the doors themselves had missing nailing that was replaced with new replicas. The ornate forgings on the doors were partially cleaned of different layers of color and tar, and their surface was repainted/sealed by coating it with several colorless tar layers. The black pine wood doors were repaired with all the old wooden parts of the warehouse. In the building, during the project, new wiring was installed, new lighting fixtures were added and an alarm systems was put in place. All around the building, the round stone pavement was repaired, and a pedestrian path is created along the main facade, and a ramp was created, facing the lake-side.

Projects Activities and results:

The project steps were finished in this order:

  1. The Harbor warehouse was restored and protected
  2. The Harbor Warehouse was tailored to fit the exhibits needs.
  3. Professional Experience Exchange Conference took place, this included professional experts from Norway and neighboring countries.
  4. Project Management
  5. Publication

By implementing the steps provided, the following results were achieved:

  1. A renewed, preserved and publicly available wooden cultural heritage site was made
  2. Partnership and exchange of experience with Norwegian experts ensured mobility of cultural workers.

The restored 538 square meter warehouse will continue to be used as a museum repository. The old buildings on the second and third floors, as well as before the restoration, will store wooden items related to the history of crafts, fishing and agriculture. The first floor of the building, during the season is accessible to all visitors. The corridor houses renovated anchors for ships, fishing boats and nets, and more than one hundred chests and various cabinets are stored on shelves. Only a part of these objects is not affected by the time and most are waiting to be restored.

The Liepaja’s Harbor Warehouse was ceremonially reopened on March 24, 2017.

Starting on May 1st, 2017, visitors at the Liepaja’s harbor warehouse could go see the Chests and cabinets stored there on display, every day from 10am-5pm.

Events, deadlines and development project status:
Project start date: 01.01.2014.
Duration of the project: 39 months.

• 1st quarter of 2014 - a restoration program was developed;
• 1st quarter of 2014 - 1st quarter of 2017 - restoration and conservation of dowry chests.
• II, III quarter 2014 – Documentation of items, documentation of items being restored.
• September 19th - Visit to Norwegian Hordaland Museum Center ( During the visit, Norwegian museum experts were introduced both to the activities of the Open-Air Museum and to the project,
• October 28, 2014 - Restoration works started,
• November 28, 2014 - Restoration works have been suspended, restoration agreement suspended,
• 1st quarter of 2015 - I quarter of 2016 - obtaining of proper documentation and construction permits/building permits,
• II quarter of 2015 – Cost of restoration works agreed upon and sent out,
• II-IV quarter of 2016 - Restoration and construction supervision of the Harbor warehouse building,
• September 1, 2016 - International Conference " Wooden Architectural Heritage Preservation”

  • November 25, 2016 – Inspector comes and approves of work done on newly renovated Harbor warehouse
    • I quarter 2017 – opening of the warehouse exhibit and its collection of chests,
    • March 2017 - a booklet about the Liepaja Harbor warehouse "Bezdelīga" was issued,
    • March 24, 2017 - Publicity Event Opening of the Liepaja Harbor warehouse "Bezdelīga" with the participation of Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to the Republic of Latvia Steinert Egil Hagen.

Projects Area:

Buildings size: 534,7 m2

Territories landscaping 150 m2

Chest and anchors

Cleaned and washed 141 chests

6 anchors restored

Projects total costs:

200 000 EUR. The project was financed by means of the EEA Financial Mechanism - 85% - EUR 170,000 and the state budget - 15% - EUR 30,000. Through EEA and Norwegian financial instruments, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway promote the reduction of social and economic disparities and the strengthening of bilateral relations with the beneficiary countries in Europe. All three countries work closely with the EU in line with the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement.

More information on the EEA  is available at

Pēdējoreiz atjaunināts:30.06.2017