Stockholm's Medieval Museum

Yesterday, I wrote about the Swedish History Museum. Today, I want to briefly introduce you to another museum that I think is definitely worth your time, even if it doesn’t deal with the ancient world. It’s the Medieval Museum in Stockholm. It’s fairly small, essentially consisting of a few of wide corridors and one gigantic, underground room, but you’ll be able to spend a couple of hours here easily, exploring every nook and cranny.

Like the North-African exhibition in the Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum (which I love), a large part of the main room consists of replicas of medieval buildings: a church, a house, a stable, and so on. A visitor here not only gets the chance to see objects in display cases, but can actually wander through part of a small medieval town.

The whole museum, in fact, is geared towards making you feel like you’re really stepping into another world. This, for example, is the corridor that leads from just past the entrance to an introductory space:

The introductory room/corridor features displays and cases with objects. It looks like this:

This space has, at the opposite end, a door that looks like a medieval gate with portcullis. Step through the gate, and you find yourself in the main room with the medieval town, plenty of display cases, a reconstruction of a medieval cemetery, a large wreck of a medieval ship, and – running across almost the entire length of this space – the remains of the old city wall.

Right next to the entrance to this large room is part of a replica medieval edifice that is used to explain how medieval buildings were constructed:

The text explains that the ‘building is intended as a work of reference showing the construction of a late medieval brick-built house. The building work is frozen at the moment when the ground floor is being completed with cross vaulting, joists (beams) and flooring. The next storey has just been begun, and the building crane and scaffolding are still in place.’ They could have just added a description next to a display cases with some tools, but they went one step further and actually created something that you can walk through and touch. It’s excellent.

The museum also makes great use of mannequins:

But the pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the reconstruction of a medieval town. Like an open air museum (but enclosed), it allows you to experience the past in a way that few museums do. You can, for example, enter a small church and look at some objects there while gregorian chants are played in the background. Only the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, as far as I know, goes one step further by adding smells to the experience!

And if you have a stretch of empty wall, why not paint a map on it to illustrate trade and overseas contacts: 

There is also an area with a number of display cases that each look like the Tardis console from Doctor Who. In these cases, videos and objects are used to explain the work that archaeologists do in creating our ideas about the past. Like the Swedish History Museum, it does a great job of concisely showing visitors how we arrive at our knowledge of the past. 

All in all, this museum is, in my opinion, absolutely fantastic. Even if you don’t care about the Middle Ages (for shame!), it’s still worthwhile to visit it, especially if you are interested in how archaeological museums present their collections to the public. 

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