Sunday, 10 May 2015

Kulturnatt: a visit to a real national museum?

The last weekend in Stockholm coincided with the local 'white night' or 'culture night' with all kinds of events and free museum access in some of the museums. After a not so thrilling Saturday afternoon logging in my Swedish tax return, it was nice to join a queue outside the Nordiska museet.

Konditori: free coffee!

I had chosen this museum of the possible ones, since I could not remember if I had visited the place after my childhood. As a museum presenting Swedish folk customs and national ethnographic collection, I had a faint memory of all kinds of rural objects, albeit presented in a slightly more uplifting way than during those days in Finland. Nevertheless, a memory of a lot of 19th century furniture did not exactly get me running to the entrance in enthusiasm. I had noticed, though, that recently their exhibitions had been relatively interesting, currently showing the history of sugar (thus the open mouths in the retro posters).

Coffee lecture

For the evening, the museum had put up a traditional Swedish cafeteria in their huge entrance hall. We who were the first managed to get small marzipan cakes and cocos balls with our free coffee, but they seemed to run out very quickly. There were all kinds of programme in the entrance hall as well. I walked by when an ethnologist was explaining the details of Swedish coffee culture. Sadly, I had to disagree with her, since I am quite sure that the special traditions of coffee shops did exist in Finland as well. Coffee is as important in Finland, if not more important, but naturally, the Swedish urban culture has always been richer than in Finland. But there is no visit to my family without drinking copious amounts of the stuff - and we the Finns consume more coffee per capita than any nation.

Sami exhibition

My visit to the Nordiska came at an interesting moment, since the following week Sanne Houby-Nielsen gave a talk in the Section of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History. Even if this originally Danish archaeologist has recently worked mainly in the museums and headed until a few months ago the Medelhavsmuseet, her own field of study is in classical archaeology and at the Department she was discussing the excavations at Chalkis. This was the talk I did not have time to sit through, but I did go to the Greek restaurant for a dinner. What an interesting night it was. Much of the discussion centred around her new job and the enthusiasm she seems to hold towards the potential the museum has. Not only to be a true national museum with huge ethnographic and photographic collections and other historic archive material, but fascinating objects, such as jewellery, toys, clothes and whole rooms and small buildings on show, but also a possibility to take part in current discussions about identity, e.g. the Sapmi. I had to reconstruct the topic of her actual talk the following day in the coffee table (fitting!).

From the Nordiska my way continued to the Spritmuseum, which was amusing for a couple of seconds. Maybe I should have come for the exhibition of the Swedish blue movies six months earlier, but there is only so much Absolut art I care to see...

My night finished to the ground floor of the Kulturhuset that has a lovely cafeteria. The food was nice - and it turned out a swing or pop choir did have their supepr there, too. We had some surprise entertainment. But the cafeteria was handy also for the stage of the local music high school. To finish with the Swedish ethnographic theme, I heard some beautiful a cappella folk songs both from Sweden and America. For some songs one of the ladies (the blond on the left) had even written the score. Powerful stuff!

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