The National Museet (Denmark’s National Museum)
Looking back on our trip last weekend while writing all these blog posts has really highlighted the cultural aspects, but I don’t want you to think that we spent ALL our time in the museums! Sure, we enjoyed the art and history, but we also walked around the city a ton, did some window-shopping, enjoyed a boat ride, and relaxed (at least a little).
The National Museum in Copenhagen is a nice little museum. The building itself is lovely, with a large atrium that is obviously newly designed/constructed. The rest of the building has been adapted from a former royal palace, and there are definitely odd little rooms and staircases that appear to come out of nowhere. But I loved the main hall, with its white walls and warm woods. The railing on the staircase was very subtle, but the wood was rounded and shaped in such a way as to make it easy and simple to use. This was one of the best examples of “good Danish design” that I saw.
The atrium is three storeys tall, and there is a large skylight at the top that lets in natural light. I didn’t see any artificial lighting at all, although there must be for the winter months when it’s dark so long. This space then leads off into the different galleries, which are quite obviously part of the old palace. This must have been a courtyard originally, which shows a very delicate and sensible re-use of space.
Alex commented that he felt it was a little Ikea-ish, which I suppose is to be expected. That light wood is a rather striking feature of Scandinavian design. Looking at the photo, I really like how the wood on the stairs appears almost like a carpet – laid on top of the white. It makes the stairs float, which is heightened by the cantilevered steps.
I won’t spent too much time talking about the exhibits here, just because I want to save you something for when you go to see it yourself! But I’ll briefly hit the highlights (from my point of view, that is). Overall, I think you can easily spend 2 to 3 hours exploring this museum, but not much more than that. Many of the exhibits are quite old-fashioned, and they could use a little love in the labeling department! Most of the information was in both Danish and English, but some was not, and all the information was quite basic with no elaboration.
These are the stocks that once sat in front of City Hall here in Copenhagen. Criminals put their legs through the holes, and then had their wrists shackled to the rings along the top. I can only imagine how awful that must have been – although you like to think that if someone got this punishment, it was for a crime that deserved it!
This is the butt of a gun. They had quite a collection of firearms, but I really loved the intricate inlay of what I can only assume is ivory or mother of pearl, or maybe both.
This large seashell has been scrimshawed (is that a verb?) and carved … it was really stunning. Why don’t people make pretty things like this anymore?
This is a VERY large scale – it hung probably 6 feet off the ground, and you can just tell that it was built for heavy things. Unfortunately I have no idea what it was used for, although my imagination runs wild and suggests it was for witches! (Highly unlikely. The phlegmatic Danish were never really into the whole burning-women thing.)
This was the best collection in the museum, in my opinion, precisely because it’s the most stereotypical. When in you’re in the country that is famous for Vikings, what’s more obvious than a drinking horn?! I really wanted to buy a drinking horn from the gift shop, but theirs were quite simple, without the stands or rims, which make the drinking horns really unique. Maybe next time!