{Sweden} Tillsammans – Together

April 18, 2016

Kids in Museums, Sweden

100 Museums Challenge: Museum No.19

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“We are two coconuts. We were picked from a palm tree in the warm breeze. Village boys dressed as women and we became their breasts. We gone on a trip and for a long time we were on a dark shelf. And now we are here!”

When #MuseumBoy started reciting this the other day out of the blue, it threw me for a minute. Coconuts? Breasts? Where was he getting this from?! “The museum!” he exclaimed. “What museum?!??” He looked at me as if I were a bit dense. “The Swedish one!” And then the penny dropped. He was referring to an exhibit at the Världskulturmuseet, or Museum of World Culture, which we had visited during our Easter holiday in Gothenburg. The museum’s new children’s exhibition ‘Tillsammans’ (Engl: Together) includes several replica objects for children to touch – with the originals on display in cabinets close by – which tell you their story, in Swedish or English, at the press of a button. Including two coconuts! (if you look hard, you can see them in the bottom right of the picture above, next to the hat) The fact that he is still able to enthusiastically relay the coconut story almost two weeks later, says a lot about the exhibition. As does the fact that the only way we managed to avoid a full blown meltdown when it was time to leave, was by promising to come back again another day. Which we did.

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‘Tillsammans’ is an exhibition all about how both wonderful and difficult it is to be together with other people, and combines opportunities to touch, play and learn with over 1000 original artefacts from the museum’s world cultures collection. I love the description of the exhibition on the museum’s website:

“In a world of caves, mountains and rainbows we invite children and adults to explore and experience hand in hand. Here, children and adults explore together and play and learn with their body, heart and brain.”

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From the moment you step in to the exhibition and are asked to remove your shoes and “let your feet explore the exhibition!” you know this is going to be a museum visit of the extraordinary kind. There are caves to crawl through, ramps (and large sculptures!) to climb up or in, and poles to slide down. Different textures on the floor and surfaces, light and shadow play, and a completely dark room filled with treasures to find, feel and smell, invite visitors young and old to challenge their senses.

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The target audience is 0 to 12, with  something for everyone. Different themes around the exhibition offer opportunities for children and adults to talk about questions and feelings together, e.g. how it is to miss someone, why do we fight, how easy or difficult is it to fit in to a group? Younger children can try drawing their feelings or look at books related to the topics, in one of the exhibitions many reading nooks, whilst older children can learn to work together in the ‘Argue Game’.

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One of my favourite sections, was the exhibit about understanding each other through facial expressions and body language. There was a touch screen game, where you can to match to facial expressions of some cartoon babies to the corresponding situations – are they hungry, needing the toilet, happy daddy is home from work, wanting a hug from mummy etc. In another, much simpler game, there was a series of pictures showing objects from the collections, and one person had to copy the expressions or poses, whilst the other had to guess which object they were copying. But what I loved most about this section, was that it was flanked either side by cases filled to the brim with original sculptures, statuettes and figurines, portraying every kind of facial expression or body language imaginable. Not just images of objects used in the games, and maybe a couple of original objects in a case, as seen in other museums, but dozens and dozens or original artefacts. It probably excited me from a professional point of view more than a parent point of view, but to me this was a brilliant example of a proper children’s *museum* not just a play area. Actually, the same was true of all the other sections in the exhibition – as mentioned, there are over 1000 original artefacts there overall – but I felt that it worked particularly well in that section.

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We climbed and crawled, we played and listened to stories, we made music and danced, we looked at objects and read books, we dressed up and we drew pictures, we touched and we felt with our hands – and our hearts. And we started again from the beginning.

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We didn’t quite have to drag the kids of of there kicking and screaming, but there were a few tears come home time. Luckily with our holiday still stretching ahead of us, we had time to come back for another visit. At which point we tried to figure out how to secretly hide this wonderful exhibition in our suitcase and smuggle it back to Berlin. We couldn’t. So we said a sad but fond farewell.

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The same way we had the rest of our holiday stretching ahead of us, we still have the rest of our year stretching ahead of us, with many more opportunities to visit many more museums. But I already know it will be hard to beat this experience as ‘most family friendly’ museum visit of the year. Thank you, Världskulturmuseet!

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You can see more photos of the exhibition in my Flickr album.


According to the museums’ website, Tillsammans “will be a part of the Museum of World Culture for many years”. The exhibition is designed so that parts of the content in some themes will be changed annually or gradually, whilst other parts will be fully replaced every second year. The design also allows “wheelchair users experience the same enjoyment as others”, and the texts – which are available in Swedish and English – are apparently adjusted for dyslexics. Need I say more? Oh yeah, and admission is completely free!

The Världskulturmuseet is open Tuesdays to Sundays (closed on Mondays), with exact opening times available on their website. The cafe has the usually drinks and cakes selection, as well as a lunch time buffet which we didn’t try as we had a packed lunch with us, but it smelled amazing. There were plenty of high chairs, and a microwave to warm baby food, and of course baby changing rooms. Do note that you are not allowed to take prams and pushchairs in to the galleries, so bring a lock to chain them up in the cloakroom on the ground floor, though the museum do have a couple to borrow, for people like us who were unprepared. And if you need to look up anything for your further holiday planning, there’s free WiFi too. I’ll stop now, I think you get the idea of how much we loved it.  If you find yourself in Gothenburg, go visit!!


Edit: I’m linking this to the new monthly #CulturedKids linky over at Nell Heshram’s The Pigeon Pair and Me. Each month, anyone can link up a post on her blog, about a culture related family experience they’ve written about. Additionally, Nell will be highlighting upcoming ‘not be be missed’ events or featuring other arts and culture bloggers, and I am honoured to be the first to be featured. Thank you! As for my reasons for choosing this post to link, the Världskulturmuseet is still hands down the best family museum experience we’ve had all year, and still one of the best family exhibitions I’ve ever been to! (07/10/2016)

the Pigeon Pair and Me
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7 Responses to “{Sweden} Tillsammans – Together”

  1. Rach Winchester Says:

    Wow!! That sounds like it ticks all the boxes it should. Must have been fantastic to go around, and can’t help thinking how amazing it must have been to work on too!

    Reply

  2. Trish @ Mum's Gone To Says:

    This is a wonderful concept for a museum and done so well and stylishly. This doesn’t surprise me as we loved travelling around Sweden a few years ago. We visited the Museum of Spirits in Stockholm which had a similar look to this one (very contemporary decoration) with one room dedicated to experiencing the effects of alcohol!
    #CulturedKids

    Reply

  3. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) Says:

    We were recently in Gothenburg and this totally wasn’t on our radar! Sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing #culturedkids

    Reply

  4. Nell (the Pigeon Pair and Me) Says:

    I’m not surprised you say this is the best exhibition you’ve been to. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m desperate to visit Gothenburg. It sounds utterly brilliant, from concept through to execution. And I love your post – such interesting details, like describing the artwork at the edge of the play area. Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids!

    Reply

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