We are on the road again in Stockholm, Sweden, on our way to the Interpret Europe Conference in Sigtuna and the Nordic-Baltic Seminar on Heritage Interpretation and Cooperation in Uppsala. We were here eighteen months ago for a conference in Visby on Gotland Island and enjoyed wandering around Stockholm for a couple of days at Christmas time when the winter decorations and celebrations add a festive atmosphere. On both of our visits here, we’ve stayed in Ostermalm in the heart of the city and enjoyed the food of the 1895 Saluhall markets and cafes of Gamlastan, their old town.
We kept walking near the Musik/Teater Museet on both visits and this time we stopped by to see how it compares with other music museums we’ve seen around the world. The entry fee is 70 Swedish Kronors (SEK) each (about ten dollars) and we really didn’t know what to expect from the signage outside. It’s in a very old and beautiful building but the entry is understated and somewhat difficult to find.
We started with the interactive musical instruments in the hall of music history. This was not the grand display of every lute ever collected or elaborate labels about the origins of each drum. The museum has many of the instruments mounted and ready to play (even in tune – wow) and you are invited to try them, creating a delightful cacophony with other museum goers. Signage is in Swedish for the most part, but since so much of the exhibitry revolves around sounds rather than words, we rarely referred to the English translation provided in a carry-around notebook. Some of the exhibits have videos or recordings behind them with earphones or audio wands to avoid an overload of repetitive
soundtracks. Lisa and I both enjoyed playing a variety of drums, especially with the complete trapset which allows you to play backup to ABBA, the famous Swedish group of the 70s. Lisa also tried the harp and swears this could be her future career. A Karaoke room invites you to become a lead singer with ABBA and other musical groups.
The museum also includes a couple of galleries devoted to theatre and the marionettes exhibit was fun to see. I had a puppet theater in the 1970s and 1980s in my work with state parks and a nature center, and had pointedly avoided marionettes because they are more challenging to make. The ones on display were beautifully crafted by varied cultures. Ipads mounted in tables and a couple of staged areas highlight the marionettes in performance.
The museum building itself seems positively medieval, which adds to the ambiance as you tread on creaky wooden floors and move from gallery to gallery via substantial stone staircases. The current photo exhibition in one wing features the
The gift shop is thematic and shares instruments from varied cultures at reasonable prices. The cards, posters and other artwork are all about music and theater.
We enjoyed the museum a great deal, largely because of the friendly greeting we received and the encouragement to interact with the instruments. If you have the chance to visit, don’t miss the Saluhall just a few blocks away to enjoy the tradition of fika – time for a great cup of coffee and a baked treat with friends or family.
– Tim Merriman