A day at the mu­seum

Swedish mu­se­ums cap­ti­vate the imag­i­na­tion and spark off in­ter­est to dis­cover more of the world, past and present.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Sto­ries and pho­tos by CHRISTINA CHIN star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my

WITH close to 90 mu­se­ums in­clud­ing one ded­i­cated to ar­dent Abba fans, Stock­holm is a must-visit for young in­tel­lec­tual trav­ellers hun­gry for knowl­edge and cul­ture. Star2 joins the Na­tional Sci­ence Chal­lenge 2013 win­ners on a tour of some of Swe­den’s “best brainy at­trac­tions” in the cap­i­tal city.

Vasa Mu­seum

Home to the Vasa, it pre­sents the mighty ship in all its glory – right next to a painted model of the Vasa built to a scale of 1:10 (who­ever says size doesn’t mat­ter is delu­sional!). In 1625, King Gus­tav II Adolf com­mis­sioned the con­struc­tion of four ships, of which the Vasa was the ill-fated first. The Vasa com­menced her maiden voy­age in 1628 but sank barely 1,300m out of Stock­holm har­bour.

It took 333 years of sal­vaging work be­fore the Vasa resur­faced, and an­other 17 years of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts be­fore she her mag­nif­i­cence was re­stored. While the main ex­hibit is cap­ti­vat­ing, the in­tri­cate sculp­tures on dis­play pro­vide a vi­brant con­trast to the stained dark brown hull. Take some time to ad­mire and read about these sculp­tures be­cause they are some of the best carvings pro­duced in the 17th century when Swe­den’s ship­ping in­dus­try was at its peak. It took 12 painstak­ing years of ex­am­in­ing hun­dreds of mi­cro­scopic colour frag­ments to re­store the sculp­tures to their orig­i­nal hues.

The ex­hibits tell the story of the ship, her his­tory and crew, events around the globe in the first half of the 17th century, naval war­fare in the early 1600s, the stages of the Vasa’s re­cov­ery and the chal­lenges in pre­serv­ing the ship.

No­bel Mu­seum

Ac­cord­ing to its of­fi­cial web­site, the mu­seum’s aim is to spread knowl­edge and cre­ate in­ter­est about the nat­u­ral sci­ences and cul­ture. Mis­sion ac­com­plished. Ded­i­cated to the No­bel Prize, its founder Al­fred No­bel, more than 800 No­bel Lau­re­ates and their cre­ative en­deav­ours, the mu­seum is cur­rently sit­u­ated in one of Stock­holm’s most beau­ti­ful 18th-century build­ings. The mu­seum is slated to move into a new pur­pose-built No­bel Cen­tre by 2018.

For a man whose in­ven­tions in­clude the dy­na­mite and who in­spired the world for gen­er­a­tions with his prize (he wrote in his will that physics, chem­istry, phys­i­ol­ogy or medicine, lit­er­a­ture and peace would each year re­ceive a part of the rev­enues from his es­tate), No­bel sounded like a very sad and lonely man. On dis­play was a de­scrip­tion of him­self: “Al­fred No­bel – piti­ful crea­ture, ought to have been suf­fo­cated by a hu­mane physi­cian when he made his howl­ing en­trance into this life. Great­est virtues: keep­ing his nails clean and never be­ing a bur­den to any­one. Great­est weak­nesses: hav­ing nei­ther wife and kids nor sunny dis­po­si­tion nor hearty ap­petite…. Im­por­tant events in his life: none.” It’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to ven­ture into a ge­nius mind even if is dark and mor­bid.

For a dose of en­light­en­ment mi­nus the yawns, the thought-pro­vok­ing short films on the No­bel Lau­re­ates’ suc­cesses and fail­ures and how they tri­umphed against the naysay­ers will in­spire even the most jaded vis­i­tor. Snip­pets of Marie Curie’s lab­o­ra­tory and (the late) Nel­son Man­dela leav­ing prison make for a good watch.

Also, check out the work of the stu­dents from the Beck­mans Col­lege of De­sign and the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic. The young tal­ents have cre­atively in­ter­preted the 2013 No­bel Prizes in the lan­guage of fash­ion and mu­sic. The re­sult? A seam­less blend of sci­ence and the arts, of the mind and the heart. My top three favourites are the:

> No­bel Laun­derette – OK, it’s not re­ally a laun­derette but at the en­trance to the mu­seum, each No­bel Lau­re­ate’s por­trait and prize ci­ta­tion is hung along a unique cable­way in the ceil­ing - just like clean and ironed laun­dry.

> Bistro No­bel chairs – Only at the No­bel Mu­seum will you find great wis­dom and cheeky quips un­der creaky wooden chairs. Some nice nuggets in­clude: “Sim­ple Bud­dhist monk” (No­bel Peace Prize Lau­re­ate Dalai Lama); “To the fu­ture No­bel Lau­re­ates who may be look­ing un­der this chair” (No­bel Prize Lau­re­ates in Phys­i­ol­ogy or Medicine James E. Roth­man, Randy W. Schek­man and Thomas C. Sud­hof); and “The­o­reti­cians use chairs a lot… walk­ing and swim­ming are bet­ter for cre­ativ­ity than sit­ting down” (No­bel Prize Lau­re­ates in Chem­istry Michael Le­vitt, Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel).

> Lau­re­ates’ gallery – Lau­re­ates do­nated per­sonal items that were once part of their No­bel-win­ning re­search for dis­play in spe­cially de­signed cas­ings. Items in­clude cloth­ing, manuscripts, sci­ence model struc­tures and even a jar from which bac­te­ria was drunk!

Tekniska Museet (Na­tional Mu­seum of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy)

Swe­den’s big­gest tech­nol­ogy mu­seum was set up to pre­serve the coun­try’s tech­ni­cal and in­dus­trial his­tory. A visit here is akin to time trav­el­ling but in­stead of en­ter­ing a wonky ma­chine of nuts and bolts, your por­tal is a mas­sive build­ing out­side the city. Ex­plor­ing ex­hi­bi­tions on space, in­ven­tions, en­ergy and the en­vi­ron­ment through sight, sound and touch has never been this fun. Ex­hi­bi­tions that were on then:

> 100 In­no­va­tions The mu­seum’s largest pro­duc­tion ever (that’s say­ing a lot since the mu­seum opened in 1936), 100 In­no­va­tions show­cases the most im­por­tant in­ven­tions in his­tory as rated by the Swedes.

> Game On 2.0 Gam­ing ad­dicts, pack your bags! The home­land of Candy Crush plays host to the world’s largest and most com­pre­hen­sive show­case of com­puter games with over 100 games, orig­i­nal sketches, rare col­lec­tor’s items and sto­ries dat­ing back to the 1960s. Try your hand at vir­tual ten­nis from 1972 or test your skills on early ar­cade favourites like Don­key Kong, Pac­man and Space In­vaders or mod­ern clas­sics like World of Warcraft and Tetris. I even saw my retro Atari con­sole here! This ex­hi­bi­tion ends on April 27.

Skansen Open-air Mu­seum and Zoo

Founded in 1891, the world’s first and old­est ope­nair mu­seum brings tra­di­tional ru­ral cul­ture to life by ex­hibit­ing fur­nished houses and farm­steads, cul­ti­vated plots, gar­dens and an­i­mals.

Most of build­ings are from the 18th, 19th and early 20th cen­turies. There are some 75 dif­fer­ent species and breeds of Scan­di­na­vian an­i­mals here, in­clud­ing bears, wolves, seals, the lynx, wolver­ine and elk. Fishes, croc­o­diles, tur­tles, lizards, snakes, naked mole-rats, pygmy mar­mosets, golden lion tamarins, ba­boons, lemurs, spi­ders, in­sects, bats and par­rots also call Skansen home. This is one huge mu­seum!

Tom Tits Ex­per­i­ment

There are lit­er­ally hun­dreds of ex­per­i­ments and things to ex­plore here. As it’s lo­cated quite a dis­tance from Stock­holm, make sure you have at least half a day to spare es­pe­cially dur­ing sum­mer when the park is open. A visit to Tom Tits is guar­an­teed to bring out the kid in you. From the out­side, the tall, cor­ner build­ing looks de­cep­tively small but step in­side and a whole world of won­der opens up. The clever use of mir­rors, space, light­ing and sound cre­ate il­lu­sions that can re­ally mess with your mind – in a good way.

This is prob­a­bly the only mu­seum I’ve ever vis­ited where they en­cour­age you to touch ev­ery­thing! Learn­ing about ba­sic sci­ence and the laws of na­ture has never been this fun. And if you are won­der­ing about Tom Tits, he is an imag­i­nary fig­ure who car­ried out a range of sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments in French pub­li­ca­tions at the end of the 19th century.

One of the sec­tions in Tekniska Museet (Na­tional Mu­seum of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy). – Photo from Wikimedia Cre­ative Commons

Sea­wor­thy: King Gus­tav adolf’s mighty ship, the Vasa.

Swedish school kids wait­ing for Skansen’s grey seal to ap­pear.

Li­nus Paul­ing’s beret and struc­ture of the al­pha­he­lix mol­e­cule on dis­play at the No­bel Mu­seum. to date, he has been the only per­son ever to have re­ceived two un­shared No­bel Prizes.

the Melo­nia is the world’s first pair of 3d printed shoes de­signed by Naim Josefi and Souzan yous­souf – at the tekniska Museet.

Some of the in­ter­est­ing ex­hibits at the tom tits ex­per­i­ment.

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