Oh museum, my museum

There are so many wonderful museums in Stockholm, most of which I thought I wouldn’t see. My Lonely Planet guide listed most of them as having entrance fees of about $10-15 each, which is definitely too much money for me to spend on a simple afternoon visit (especially after visiting so many free museums in Malmö and Gothenburg). I was never much of a museum person, but now that I’m traveling alone, I’ve begun to seek them out. Museums, both the good and bad ones, provide an easy way to spend time between project meetings, visit different areas of a city, and learn more about a country’s culture and history. And the more museums I see, the more I’m impressed by the good ones.

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First up: the Medieval Museum.

So I was quite disappointed to read that Stockholm, already so expensive compared to the rest of Sweden, charged for its museums as well. Luckily, my Lonely Planet guide is just a little out-of-date. It doesn’t incorporate the results of a February 2016 law that removed the entrance fee for many of these state-owned museums (https://www.thelocal.se/20160202/now-its-free-to-go-to-swedish-museums). Good news for me! This post covers five of the free museums I’ve visited in the past week (with more to come).

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Stockholm in medieval times covered little more than the area of today’s Gamla Stan (“Old Town”).

The Medieval Museum was fun because it focused on day-to-day life in a medieval Swedish village, using life-size wax people and prop houses. The museum is housed in a fairly small space and doesn’t require much reading, teaching visitors more about feeling and attitude than strict facts (which is appropriate, since we’re discussing a time period that ended 600 years ago).

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The “craftsman” in his home, which is large enough to walk through (I even went up to the second floor!).
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According to this wax figure, medieval gardeners were quite sad.
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This corner of the museum, with its shifting background colors, was clearly meant to emit an eerie vibe about death punishments in the Middle Ages (see the gallows in the back?).

Moving on, I visited the much larger Natural History museum next. This is where I got a sense of Stockholm’s importance and size as the capital of Sweden; the natural history museum here is admittedly much better than the one in Göteborg (which consisted mostly of overly lit 1940s-esque taxidermy cabinets – instructive but creepy). The Stockholm Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet makes an effort to place its stuffed subjects in more “natural” poses and environments. I also appreciated the more focused and relevant exhibits such as one about Sweden’s waters and another about climate change.

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This is as much of the museum’s exterior as I could fit in one photo without jumping onto the highway!
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The ceiling of the dome in the center of the museum.
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Emission sources in the climate change exhibit. I probably would have spent a lot more time there if there had been descriptions in English, but I got a general sense of the topic.

Remember when I told you that Sweden is home to the world’s largest scale model of the solar system? I visited the “Sun” my first day here in Stockholm. It’s represented by the Ericsson Globe (“Globen”), and it’s huge. I was happy to find both the moon and the Earth in the Natural History Museum, placing the “Earth” 7.6km from the “Sun” (exactly 1/20000000th of the actual distance).

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Earth is close to the gift shop, while the moon is close to the IMAX theater.
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As I said, the museum placed its animals in a “natural” environment: here you have a stuffed fox ready to play!
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Let’s be honest: the Göteborg Natural History museum didn’t even have a dinosaur hall.

Next, I decided to visit the Royal Coin Cabinet (“Kungliga Myntkabinettet”), the city’s currency museum right next to the Royal Palace. I’m not so interested in currency, but it’s one of the few museums in Stockholm – really, in all of Sweden – that’s open on Mondays, so last Monday I thought, why not?

Well, honestly, I don’t have many positive things to say about this museum. It’s difficult to retain any information after staring at a thousand years’ worth of coins.

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Of course, American currency was part of the permanent world currency exhibit! I was glad to see something familiar here.
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A bit of entertainment in an otherwise less-than-thrilling array of objects: a dragon guards its treasure.

Next up is the Sjöhistoriska Museet, the Maritime History Museum of Stockholm. It’s situated in a beautiful building just by the water. While I can’t say it’s particularly instructive, it’s still fun to walk through (a bit like the medieval museum). One gets to see many model ships and develop a bit of a sense for life as a sailor, especially with the mock bunks built in shipping containers in one section of the museum.

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The Maritime Museum.
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The stern of the Amphion, the specially-commissioned “personal pleasure craft” of an old Swedish king. This is the real thing, with the king’s cabin still preserved and visible through the windows.
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My favorite room in the maritime museum: “Old Globes for Young Explorers.”
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View from the back of the museum. The fall colors are lovely in Stockholm!

Finally – at least for this post – I visited The Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan. You might already know that most of the Nobel Prizes (all except for the Peace Prize) are awarded in Stockholm each year. The museum has information about all the winners, in all the categories, since the Prizes began in 1895. It showcases various award winners and their projects, and it also covers the life of Alfred Nobel himself. I was really impressed with the Nobel Museum. I didn’t have any expectations about it and I never really planned to go, but I’m so glad I did. It’s well-organized, and I think that the best museums are those with a specific topic – I find it easier to learn from such focused museums.

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Schrödinger’s Nobel Prize diploma! I learned that every Nobel Prize, in addition to the award money and medal, includes a uniquely customized diploma like the one shown here. That means there are over 500 different Nobel Prize diploma designs from the past 100+ years.

This is going to sound really cheesy, but I found the Nobel Museum incredibly inspiring. The museum’s main message is that anyone has the ability to be a Nobel Prize winner, and it really feels true when you see the huge diversity of past winners. Also, the museum stresses that experimentation, failure, and persistence are key to developing something prize-worthy – not sheer genius or resources or luck.

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Of course, I looked at some of the medical prize-winners. This is the first example of packaged insulin for diabetes patients (1923).

Sweden deserves to be proud of Alfred Nobel and his Prizes. Based on the snippets of his life that I saw at the museum, he seemed to be an interesting man (with a dry wit) who clearly saw the value in celebrating great achievements and inspiring future generations.

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Showcased projects, color-coded by the type of prize they won (chemistry, physics, literature, peace, or medicine). I was glad to see an assistive device – the wheelchair – as a prize-winner on display.
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