National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space

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Anni Mogensen, who took over the leadership of the National Museum in Copenhagen in March this year, after holding a position there as head of public programs for two years, has just one aim: to convey cultural heritage in a context you have only in very few places. That is the museum’s major value and it is very precious.

I met Anni Mogensen in her office in the great treasure house of the museum in Ny Vestergade and she is warm and friendly and answers my questions softly and carefully. And she has vast ambitions for the museum – plans that will, if they see the light of the day, transform the museum for generations to come.

Related: The Medieval City of Copenhagen

National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space
The aim of the National Museum in Copenhagen is to convey cultural heritage in a context you have only in very few places

Mogensen and her team are aiming to put the museum through a major renovation project that will culminate in a complete redisplay of its galleries. However, the building is old and partly protected, which is a challenge considering that the state of the essential services, such as electricity, heating  and ventilation, which are in dire need of repair. Mogensen will test out different ways of doing this together with her team.

National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space
The National Museum, Copenhagen – the atrium

That doesn’t sound so remarkable until you begin to absorb the scale of the job. Mogensen tells me there are 10,000 square meters of exhibitions, equal to 14 football pitches. It’s a six kilometers walk containing 45,000 items.

Related: The Danish Viking Land

National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space
The museum contains 10,000 square meters of exhibitions, equal to 14 football pitches. It’s a six kilometers walk containing 45,000 items

They cannot close the museum. It is one of the most visited museums in Copenhagen, 350,000 visitors last year, so that’s entirely out of the question. Work will have to be phased and is projected to take nine years. And who will pay, when the government’s funds are reduced by two percent annually? There will certainly be a need for fundraising campaigns.

National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space
Anni Mogensen, Head of the National Museum, in playful surroundings – at the children’s collection

By the end of all this Mogensen hopes to achieve a display that is more coherent – and more interconnected. “Human history has always been driven by exchange, by cultures communicating. The interconnection she is keen to demonstrate might also be across time. “We have responsibilities,” she says. “The history can meet us in the life we’re living today, but at the same time expand across time and place, for instance through existential themes such as death,.” She is referring to a Grand Tour in time from the most ancient parts of the ethnographical collection through the Viking Age ending up in our present time. Where are we going from here?

The museum’s job, Mogensen says, is to take the long view, to confront the whole of human history, to understand that present time is just a moment in the turbulent story of the world. The National Museum in Copenhagen is a symbol of Denmark and a repository of global knowledge. “We present stories from the present alongside monuments of antiquity as well as listening to and playing with our children,” explains Mogensen.

Related: Bronze Age Artwork in Scandinavia 

National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space
Can you find the boredom button?

Focus on the children
Just now the museum has a focus on the children. At the end of the interview we go over to the director’s keenness to demonstrate the interconnectedness also across themes. This year all power is given to the children. There’s an emphasize on exhibitions and activities for children. They’re even asking the children what they think is good and less good about the museum. Mogensen is proud of the backing given to and from the coming generation. “Children are honest, playful, curious and a source of inspiration,” she says.

However, many children think it’s boring to visit museums. They have to be quiet, they can’t play and they’re forbidden to touch anything. But the National Museum of Denmark is about to change all this. They have launched a ‘boredom button’.  If cabinets with arrowheads and potsherds don’t interest them, this button is designed to bring the museum to life, so the children experience that history wants something from them.

Viking Exhibitions
The next big initiative on the agenda is a total renewal of the museum’s Viking exhibitions, also with the museum’s many foreign visitors in mind. The Viking collections in Copenhagen as well as in Stockholm and Oslo are all in the process of renewal, and a cooperation comes naturally.

National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space
A collection of drinking horns

“I would never be doing something like this without asking who it is for,” says Mogensen. “It’s all about asking the question: ‘How is our public going to profit from this?’ “I cherish every day working in this environment,” she concludes.

When exploring the National Museum, why not take a break to enjoy delicious Danish smørebrød accompanied with special made beers and aquavits at Restaurant SMØR right in the center of the museum.

Anni Mogensen
studied rhetoric and social sciences at Copenhagen University and holds a HD from Copenhagen Business School. After a position at the Danish Embassy in Canada, she took the position as Head of Public Programs at the National Museum in Copenhagen, before she was promoted to Head of the Museum in March this year.

National Museum of Denmark
The National Museum is Denmark’s cultural historical main museum, covering both Denmark and foreign cultures. The Museum is actually 20 different museums spread all over the country, whilst the National Museum in Ny Vestergade is a time-machine with destinations such as Vikings, Egyptian mummies and a hash stall from Christiania.

Feature image (on top): Timepiece from the Medieavl times

All photos by Tor Kjolberg
National Museum in Copenhagen – A Journey in Time and Space
, written by Tor Kjolberg

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