Endless rows of stone axe heads, display after display. Around 1900, a typical Danish museum would focus on finds, research and prehistory. But new thoughts were brewing. Visions of focusing on lives lived, and making museums for people, not about things. This shift gave birth to folk and open-air museums where the distant past no longer eclipsed human memory. The resulting clash: the capital vs the provinces, the National Museum vs the many new local museums. The debate goes on, but today’s angle is different. As Danes seek out cultural-history museums like never before, this success raises the eternal question: Where should museums head in the future? Perhaps we spy the contours of new clashes on the distant horizon.
Take a guided tour of Danish museum history with Thomas Bloch Ravn, director of the open-air museum Den Gamle By.