The Nordiska Museet

History of the Museum

The Nordiska Museet (The Nordic Museum) is the largest cultural history museum in Sweden. It was originally founded by Artur Hazelius (1833 – 1901) and served as a museum celebrating and preserving the folk culture of Sweden. A collection of popular costumes from areas such as Dalarana, Sweden, were displayed in a few separate buildings in central Stockholm. During the early display of the collection, donations started to reflect other Nordic cultures and traditions.

As the collection grew, incorporating new objects aside from costumes, there was the need for a more permanent location. On October 24, 1873, the Scandinavian-Ethnographic museum opened at Drottninggatan 71. The name, Nordiska Museet, was formalised in 1880 alongside the creation of a museum foundation.

Today, the museum is housed in one of Sweden’s largest indoor spaces. The building was designed by Isak Gustav Clason to mimic a Renaissance-style castle. It was officially opened to the public on 2 June 1907.

The Nordiska Museet holds just over one and a half million objects and aims to provide an insight into life in Sweden from the 16th century to present day. There has been a concerted effort to not only represent the past, but, to ensure exhibitions are held that display innovation and the continuation of Nordic cultures and traditions. For example, a recent exhibition titled Nordic Light, examines how Scandinavian homes have utilised lights to cope with periods of no sunlight.

Visiting the Nordiska Museet

Visiting the Nordiska Museet allows any individual the opportunity to glimpse into what is presented as Swedish life. There are a selection of permanent displays as well as a changing temporary exhibitions scheduled.

The permanent display is divided into themes such as table settings throughout history, jewellery, houses and interiors, Swedish folk art, traditions, and Sapmi (focusing on the Sami indigenous population of Sweden). Visitors can be directed around the museum with an audio guide that highlights some of the objects on display. There has been clear consideration for accessibility. Quite a few objects, especially in the houses and interiors exhibition, had small replica models that could be touched by visitors.

Throughout the exhibition experience, there is confusion over what story is being presented. While the museum is called Nordiska or Nordic Museum, the stories focus almost solely on Sweden. This may be due to lack of representation in the collection or issues of space. Temporary exhibitions are more broad in their reach and are attempting to incorporate other Nordic perspectives into their display.

Things to know before visiting

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Rebecca Lush