Visiting the famous Malmska Valen
Happy Museum Monday! This week we have another great museum to share with you from our trip to Gothenburg a couple of years ago – still one of my favourite family holidays to date. Natural history is always a winner with kids, so when we were in Gothenburg we of course had to visit the Naturhistoriska Museum! That and the fact it has a very famous whale exhibit, and we really wanted to ‘meet’ the local celebrity.
The Naturhistoriska Museum has everything you would expect from a natural history museum. Dinosaurs…
Cases crammed full of bugs and butterflies – and don’t those old display cases just look beautiful!
Rocks and fossils…
An animal gallery with the obligatory elephant…
But, of course, the main reason for our visit was the Malmska Valen – this way please!
And here he is, the famous ‘Malmska Valen’, the world’s only mounted blue whale. Stranded in a bay near Gothenburg in 1865, he is named after August Malm, who worked at the museum and oversaw the conversation of the whale’s carcass. Malm documented his process in pictures, and you can see a digitised copy of his journal online.
The whale was only around 18 months old at the time, and at over 16 metres long and weighing around 25 tonnes he was still a ‘little’ fellow. His skeleton is displayed next to him, along with the jawbone of a fully sized whale for comparison.
After the whale was skinned, the skin mounted on to a wooden frame with around 30,000 zinc & copper nails! The frame was made in three parts, so that it could be taken apart for moving it. There’s an online album with old photographs which shows the whale being transported to the museum, where you can see the individual parts. You can also see the giant hole they had to knock in to the museum’s wall to get the whale inside!
When it was first exhibited in 1866, the inside of the whale was fitted out with hand-printed textile wallpaper and wooden benches – the jaws are hinged and it can be entered by opening the upper jaw. Until the turn of the century, anyone could freely go inside the whale. Then general access to the inside of the whale was curtailed after a couple were apparently caught ‘canoodling’ inside. But nowadays it still gets opened again on special occasions – you can see a picture of it in its open state on the museum’s Instagram account.
Compared with some of the other museums we visited in Gothenburg, this one didn’t have as much for kids to do in terms of hands-on interactives or children specific exhibits, but we didn’t really need any of that. Fascinated by the dinosaurs, giant Japanese spider crab, rocks and fossils, and of course the famous Malmska valen, our eldest (who was 5.5 at the time) was still talking about our visit days later.
Gothenburgs Naturhistoriska Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays (closed on Mondays). Exact opening times can be found on the museum’s website. Admission has been free sine 2018. Incidentally, they also had the most amazing museum gift shop and I confess we went a little overboard. If you want to make a day trip of it, the museum is located on the NE edge of Gothenburg’s vast Slottskogen park with the city’s (free!) Zoo just to the south in the middle of the park, the adjacent Botanic Gardens to the SE of the park, and the amazing Plikta children’s playground right next door to the museum – complete with a giant blue whale climbing frame!