Monday, 9 May 2016

Ska vi gå på museet?

Tourist offices in Stockholm distribute a special map dedicated to the city's museums. With over 80 museums it does come in pretty handy. I knew in advance I wouldn't be able to visit all of them, but I put the map on my fridge, designed a plan of action to visit as many as possible, and then failed miserably at following through. I still managed to tick 35 off my list, plus countless galleries which aren't even on the map!

With quite a few museums undergoing extensive reconstruction and some others hibernating through the dark months, it might not have been the most ideal time for me to be in Stockholm. However, renewed government regulations encouraged all museums to drop their entrance fee right when I arrived, which resulted in a bit of semi-heated debate, and a very exciting time for most museums. I very much enjoyed finding myself in the middle of all this.

The usual museum suspects are all present, just like in Belgium. The art students, with a constant hint of panic in their eyes as they roam around finding inspiration for their next paper. Your friendly neighbourhood hipsters, improving every single piece of art by adding the perfect instagram filter and just a hint of hashtag. The tourists, armed with audio guides and on the constant look out for another selfie opportunity. Art theorists, rocking their bug eye glasses and matching retro hairstyle, index finger and thumb glued to the chin as they mutter about nothing in particular to nobody in particular. And of course, the pensioned couple, who feel all that modern art is way too rock n roll for their taste, but still visit every Sunday because the museum cafe has a great coffee and cake deal.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were also a lot of other people wandering through the cultural landscape. People from all different backgrounds, ethnicity and age seem to have found their way to the museums. Perhaps they are lured in by the public programs, tailored for everyone and anyone, as museums go through a lot of trouble catering for all possible target groups.

And while other countries are still busy arguing about whether or not children belong in museums, Sweden holds special baby tours to get them all hooked as young as possible. Mums and dads on parental leave have plenty of time to join stroller tours. Toolboxes, special programs, quizzes, dress up parties and treasure hunts are guaranteed to give moms and sons the perfect day at the museum, and nothing says father-daughter quality time like constructing a glitter infested miniature farm house together. In case you're still not convinced: I did not see a single chocolate fingerprint on the Rubens, there were no bite marks on the ancient artefacts and the one time I saw someone touch something they shouldn't, it was, indeed, a grown up.

Some museums were a bit disappointing. When I visited one of the more popular museums for tourists, the gift shop turned out to be more interesting than the actual exhibition space. And after being thrilled for weeks about finally seeing one of my favourite art works in real life, I might have been more than a little bit cranky when it was impossible to get a good look at it because they placed another piece right in front of it.

In general though, most museums turned out better than expected. The exhibitions are designed with great care, they're welcoming and they offer something for every type of visitor. Oh, and they all have foldable chairs you can drag around so you can sit down wherever you want. On top of that, many of them are worth passing by just for the amazing architecture, the great surroundings or the scrumptious cakes in the café. If you're ever in Stockholm, you should definitely take some time to visit a museum. Or two. Or thirty-five.

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