Skansen is a large outdoor museum, the first in the world in fact. It covers a vast range of eras and interests – from 1860’s farming to 1930’s businesses, a Zoo, rides… and more! They have an annual visitation of about 1.4m and receive some government funding, but rely heavily on ticket sales. The entry price of 100kr (approximately $15) is very reasonable, because you could easily get a whole day’s entertainment out of it.
At first I found the variety of sites and types of exhibits a little confusing, but the free map and numerous signs and information panels (in Swedish and English) helped to make sense of the place quite quickly. I had arrived on Norwegian National Day too, which provided additional confusion with Norwegian flags and national dress everywhere. But the staff were quick to offer an explanation. Those working in the historical business and houses were very friendly and happily explained their trade/era/location, and all with fluent English which was impressive, although not surprising! I particularly enjoyed talking to the Baker who had a vast array of interesting knowledge to share, not to mention delicious produce! The historic buildings themselves were nearly all original, moved to the site from around the country.
The Zoo part of the museum gave me an opportunity to see my first Elk and Reindeer, which I found exciting. Although the animal enclosures were run in using modern methods, they worked well with the rest of the museum, particularly for international visitors as they showcased native animals and provided information about their current and historical context.
The whole venue had a very cheerful and nostalgic feel to it. Many visitors seemed to be focused on a pleasure experience rather than a learning/history experience. Skansen catered well for these types of visitors without feeling like it was over-commercialised and the rides and playgrounds didn’t feel like they were running at the expense of the history. Perhaps this was because they were not modern style or ‘glitzy’ rides. Having said that, I think the experience of visiting Skansen would be greatly enhanced by first having a guided tour. When I met with Group Booking Coordinator, Kerstin, and walked around with her, I was able to gain a much better insight into the history. Plus she showed me parts of the houses I didn’t realise I could enter.
As far as I saw there were no modern technology aids for increasing visitor knowledge. All panels were very traditional and there was no wifi available. I liked that the historic sites were free of modern technology (or at least it was well hidden!). However, just like other large museums I’ve visited, I do feel like an individual’s visit could be enhanced by a mobile application that supports their personal interests and inquiries.
Skansen runs a comprehensive education program for schools and other groups such as universities and recent immigrants. They offer guided tours, curriculum-focused programs, trade experiences and some tailored programs. The school programs cover a range of topics, matching the range of exhibits and the curriculum requirements of the school. Some of the workshops involved hands-on character-based work where their students take on roles and complete common household tasks of their historical counterparts. These tasks could involve things such as baking and washing. These programs a run in specifically reserved farmhouses that are closed to outside visits. During summer some of these programs are modified and run as school holiday programs.
All in all I enjoyed my visit to Skansen. It was certainly a cheerful place. I can see how Swedes would be really attracted to the nostalgic presentation of national history and it is a great site for children, with lots of activities catered to them. I think they must face big challenges with such a complicated mix of messages and histories to deliver. But the visitors I saw all seemed engaged and happy, and surely that is the most important thing.