{Sweden} The Världskulturmuseet with Kids

Happy Museum Monday! We’re back with another great museum for kids to share with you – The Världskulturmuseet (or World Culture Museum) in Gothenburg. We visited this during an Easter holiday a couple of years ago, and I think it’s possibly one of our favourite museum experiences ever with kids. In fact, we loved it so much, that the only way we managed to avoid a full blown meltdown when it was time to leave, was by promising to come back again a second day. Which we did.

Tillsammans’ (Engl: ‘together’) is an exhibition all about how both wonderful and difficult it is to be together with other people, and combines opportunities to touch, play and learn with over 1000 original artefacts from the museum’s world cultures collection. I love the description of the exhibition on the museum’s website:

“In a world of caves, mountains and rainbows we invite children and adults to explore and experience hand in hand. Here, children and adults explore together and play and learn with their body, heart and brain.”

From the moment you step in to the exhibition and are asked to remove your shoes and “let your feet explore the exhibition!” you know this is going to be a museum visit of the extraordinary kind. There are caves to crawl through, ramps (and large sculptures!) to climb up or in, and poles to slide down. Different textures on the floor and surfaces, light and shadow play, and a completely dark room filled with treasures to find, feel and smell, invite visitors young and old to challenge their senses.

The target audience is 0 to 12, with  something for everyone. Different themes around the exhibition offer opportunities for children and adults to talk about questions and feelings together, e.g. how it is to miss someone, why do we fight, how easy or difficult is it to fit in to a group? Younger children can try drawing their feelings or look at books related to the topics, in one of the exhibition’s many reading nooks, whilst older children can learn to work together in the ‘Argue Game’.

One of my favourite sections, was the exhibit about understanding each other through facial expressions and body language. There was a touch screen game, where you can try match facial expressions of some cartoon babies to the corresponding situations – are they hungry, needing the toilet, happy daddy is home from work, wanting a hug from mummy etc. In another, much simpler game, there was a series of pictures showing objects from the collections, and one person had to copy the expressions or poses, whilst the other had to guess which object they were copying. But what I loved most about this section, was that it was flanked either side by cases filled to the brim with original sculptures, statuettes and figurines, portraying every kind of facial expression or body language imaginable. Not just images and maybe a couple of original objects, as seen in other museums, but dozens and dozens or original artefacts. Actually, the same was true of all the other sections in the exhibition – as mentioned, there are over 1000 original artefacts there overall – but I felt that it worked particularly well in that section.

We climbed and crawled, we played and listened to stories, we made music and danced, we looked at objects and read books, we dressed up and we drew pictures, we touched and we felt with our hands – and our hearts. And we started again from the beginning.

We didn’t quite have to drag the kids out of there kicking and screaming, but there were a few tears come closing time. Luckily, we had time to go back for another visit. At which point we tried to figure out how to secretly hide this wonderful exhibition in our suitcase and smuggle it back home with us. We couldn’t. So we said a sad but fond farewell.

According to the museums’ website, Tillsammans “will be a part of the Museum of World Culture for many years”. The exhibition is designed so that parts of the content in some themes will be changed annually or gradually, whilst other parts will be fully replaced every second year (so you may not see exactly what we did, if you go there). The design also allows “wheelchair users experience the same enjoyment as others”, and the texts – which are available in Swedish and English – are apparently adjusted for dyslexics. Oh yes, and admission was completely free!

The Världskulturmuseet is open Tuesdays to Sundays (closed on Mondays), with exact opening times available on their website. The cafe has the usually drinks and cakes selection, as well as a lunch time buffet. There were plenty of high chairs, and a microwave to warm baby food, and of course baby changing rooms. Do note that you are not allowed to take prams and pushchairs in to the galleries, so bring a lock to chain them up in the cloakroom on the ground floor. We were caught out by this, but were able to borrow a lock from reception.  But I think you get the idea of how much we loved it.  If you find yourself in Gothenburg, go visit!!

You can see more photos of the exhibition in my Flickr album.

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