Today was our final day in Stockholm. I have absolutely adored this city and will be sad to say goodbye tomorrow. There is no doubt, however, that I will return and perhaps enjoy the city in summer. We most definitely saved the best till last. Apart from the Vasa Museum, the Nordic History Museum has been our favourite. I highly recommend visitors begin their time in Stockholm with a trip to this museum. It provides a great overview of Swedish traditions and culture as well as covering some basic history. It does all this in an architecturally beautiful space. It was literally a museum filled with some of my most favourite things (cue Sound of Music). I am going to cover a lot in this post. I will try to limit myself to only a few exhibition spaces, writing a brief summary then focusing on a highlight object.
1. Homes and Interiors
Like well-trained museum visitors, we followed the instructions on our audio guide to our first stop – Homes and Interiors. I am going to describe this exhibition as a fusion between displaying objects and showcasing a sort of house museum (or houses museum). The aim of this exhibition is to trace how Swedish furniture and interior design has transformed from approximately 1562 to today. Chairs were on display from various centuries along with wallpaper patterns and dressers. It was a very eclectic mix of homewares. The house museum vibe came from the fully reconstructed rooms from various centuries. For example, there was a reconstructed living-room from 1939 which told the story of a lower-class Swedish family. It was fully equipped with furniture and other bits and pieces including a newspaper reporting on the outbreak of World War II. Other rooms included a drawing-room from 1886 and a 17th century cottage.
This object was actually super exciting to see. This semester we spoke quite a bit about having a ‘tactile experience’ with museum objects and how this is often impossible. In front of a 1650-1700 chair was a mini model of the chair that visitors could touch. By having this tacticle experience, I gained a sense of how the actual chair was constructed etc. It was very cute and I have never experienced this in an exhibition.
If you are wondering what holidays are celebrated in Sweden and why then look no further than this exhibition. Everything from birth to death was explored along with complementary objects. Easter, advent, Midsummer, graduation, and death were amongst some of the many traditions represented. Words cannot describe the feels happening when I walked through the Christmas section. Only one month left now!
There were so many objects in this space it is very hard to select one. I did really like the painted Easter eggs. One was made to look like a dog whilst others were intricately painted with images of rabbits and eggs. They were displayed nicely in little egg cups spread over a few shelves. My only criticism is that quite a lot of the painting was hidden inside the cup.
3. Table Settings
Sometimes I think I have very niche interests. Other times I know I have very niche interests. This may fall into the former category so bare with me. Essentially this exhibition showcased different table settings from the 15th century to circa 1950. It is exactly how it sounds – large tables were set-up with fake food and cutlery to recreate a traditional table setting from a particular era. The aim of the exhibition was to visually show how the consumption of food has transformed over time.
I had to select the only object in this exhibition without a label in English. My favourite object was the Sura Grädd-Waflor. From what I could tell, it was a cutlery holder. But a very beautiful and ornate cutlery holder with all pieces still contained within. It was something from a very different time and obviously constructed with great care. It really didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the label because I was able to appreciate what was in front of me and its detail.
4. Doll Houses
Ever since seeing Queen Mary’s dollhouse in Windsor Castle when I was ten years old I have loved doll houses. This love was extended in 2015 when I visited the Wellcome Museum and saw the crime scene doll houses of Frances Glessner Lee. Although toys, these houses are filled with such wonderful surprises. The level of detail can be astounding. The Nordic Museum has around ten doll houses on display ranging from 1700 to today. They are displayed so you can see their contents.
My favourite object was a dolls house from 1700. According to the label it was built in the late 17th century. It was utilized to teach young girls how to be good housewives. It was a great dolls house that has aged quite well. I would like to think that today both girls and boys can utilize doll houses for a wide variety of reasons.
This exhibition had around 1 000 pieces of jewellery on display. In my opinion, what worked well was that the highlight objects were all contained in one case. This means if you are short on time or feeling overwhelmed, you don’t have to exert much energy to find the most significant objects.
This is a highlight of the highlights – Gustav Banér’s pendant. This object has a very sad story attached. Banér was a Councillor of the Realm who was executed during the Linköping Blood Bath. Before meeting his fate, he said farewell to his family gifting the pendant to his daughter. It was passed down the family line until it was donated to the Nordic Museum.
6. 1940s Apartment
Last but not least is the entirely reconstructed 1940s apartment. This was definitely a house museum within a museum. In total, there were four rooms open to visitors. You were free to walk through each of the rooms exploring every corner and every object. A great way to end your visit at the museum.
This museum is an absolute must for those visiting Stockholm. One thing I would say is that the audio guide tour isn’t exactly the greatest. We gave up listening pretty quickly and focused on reading the labels. Other than that, it was a great introduction to Swedish culture.