One of the best museums I have visited in recent years was the Vasa Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. The museum is dedicated to the story of the Vasa, a royal warship that sunk less than 2000 metres into its maiden voyage in 1628.
The museum is a large, impressive building, and it has to be, because at its centre is the Vasa itself which was retrieved from the seabed in April 1961.
It honestly took my breath away; the sheer scale of the ship is something to behold.
The museum has many levels (got my steps in during this visit!) so you can see the Vasa from different vantage points. As you do so you can really grasp the extraordinary workmanship that went into creating this ship. It was stripped back to its dark wood whilst slumbering for centuries on the sea floor, but for its short maiden voyage it would have been painted dazzlingly bright.
Not only does the museum have the ship itself, but they have curated several exhibits focusing on key aspects of the Vasa story.
My favourite one was Vasa’s Women (no surprise there considering Women’s History is my favourite topic!). This exhibit explored the lives of four women involved in the Vasa’s story: Margareta Nilsdotter, Brita Gustavsdotter Båth, Ylva and Beata. Researcher’s have done a fantastic job using primary sources to bring their stories to life, and use them as a window into life for women in 17th Century Sweden.
Another brilliant section of the museum was a recreation of the inner bowels of the ship, helping visitors get a feel for what it would have been like working inside the Vasa.
In the Face to Face exhibit some of the skeletal remains of victims of the Vasa disaster were on display, along with reconstructions of what they likely looked like. Now I have conflicting feelings about human remains on display at museums, however, the Museum curated the remains with dignity and respect.
Alongside the history of the ship, the museum also records the intervening centuries and how the ship fared. It was decomposing in the sea, and even now it is in the museum they are undertaking constant conservation work to ensure its longevity for many more years to come.
If you are visiting Stockholm the Vasa Museet is a MUST visit. However, if you cannot visit, the Vasa Museet website is a brilliant resource that I’d recommend exploring here.
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Vasa Museet: https://www.vasamuseet.se/en
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