Moesgaard Museum

We’ve sort of stayed tucked away in our cozy little home for most of February. A bit of sunlight now and then has finally coaxed us from our hidey-hole and now we are beginning to explore our area again. Last weekend, we thought we would visit a couple museums. We drove up to Moesgaard Museum, just South of Aarhus, and wound up spending the entire day there. We could have stayed even longer had we realized there were hiking trails and such to explore.

After purchasing two adult tickets (kids were free! woot!), we descended the stairs alongside our ancestors… Life-size models of early man in various stages were standing on the stairs – it was eerie, yet the boys were fascinated with them, as the progression really helped illustrate just how we evolved as a species. Some were so short that the boys were able to look them in the eye!

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Once on the lower level, we started our journey through time. The design and layout of this museum is fantastic. We circled into a “burial mound,” where some of the best preserved and oldest skeletons were on display from mounds found in the area. The skeletons were scanned and then rebuilt into mannequins – 70% accurate to the likenesses of their living selves. The kids were genuinely interested in the videos that showed the process of sculpting the humans back to life.

The amount of artifacts found in Denmark is astounding. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the people of Denmark used to throw items into the lakes and bogs as offerings. Some offerings were personal. Others were done as a community, to give thanks to the gods after a battle. Everything from hair braids, combs, and tools to weapons and even enemies and their horses were plunged into the cold waters. Most of it was preserved quite well. You can even see a “bog person” in the museum – human remains that were preserved in the bog. The leathery skin looks like a bronze sculpture. It’s incredible.

One of the things I appreciated most about the museum was the artistic way the exhibits are designed and displayed. As you walk into the area where the bog artefacts are contained, the museum floor becomes squishy and soft (like what you’d find at playgrounds) to give you the feel of walking on marshy or mossy land. Other areas feature suspended sculptures of necklaces and swords descending to the lower level of the museum… as if drifting into the the bog. Your eye follows them down as you walk down the stairs to find even bigger displays of weapons and artifacts at the bottom. A wonderful blend of history, narrative, architecture, and visual design.

That hair you see above is about 1200 years old! A woman made a very personal offering to the gods by putting her own hair in the bog.

Moving along, we were able to see how Viking communities grew and defended themselves. There were also quite a few carved runes – perfect since Max has been learning about signs & symbols as part of his school’s current ‘unit of inquiry.’ The next area featured more interactive instruction – you could pick up an amulet from a character and then, by placing the amulet on different exhibit points, you would hear that character’s narrative through dialogue and stories. I’m sure this would have been great for the kids, but by this point it was about 2:00, and we were all quite hungry and ready for a break.

We were SO hungry that we did not take pictures of the gorgeous salads we ate. The museum cafe is quite nice. It’s pretty expensive, but the portions are large and the quality is good. FYI: There are two counters in the cafe. One for meals, and another for coffee and cakes. This way, you can plan accordingly. Maybe next time we will pack a picnic and enjoy a coffee and a snack inside the museum’s cafe afterwards.

After snarfing down our lunches and relaxing for a bit, we headed upstairs to explore one last exhibit, which showed how different cultures around the world deal with death. Lots of spooky masks from Africa, Tibet, and the South Seas, but also colorful skulls and decorations from La Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. Luckily the boys didn’t have nightmares from all of that talk about ghosts communicating with their families and coming back for parties!

After the museum, we let the boys run around on the huge sloping roof, and then explored the grounds for a bit – an old stave church and outside a huge mansion that was once home to the local nobility. Then E fell in the mud, so we cut our wanderings short and headed back to the car. It was a long and enjoyable day. We look forward to returning with guests and seeing the next exhibit – Chinese terracotta warriors! – and to explore the grounds in warmer weather.

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