Monday, October 8, 2007

National Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, Sweden

The National Museum of Natural History is a large and impressive museum in Stockholm, with some 10,000 m2 of exhibitions and 200 curators, researchers, and museum staff.

The entrance to the museum from the street is through a colorful and playful garden in the shape of a butterfly.

The museum mounted a major permanent exhibition on global warming in 2004 called “Mission: Climate Earth.” This exhibition, developed at a cost of about US $ 1 million, was inspired by a museum board member who is also a climate researcher and believed that the museum should stay ahead of the curve by bringing this topic to the public through a comprehensive exhibition, professionally designed and scientifically accurate.

The exhibition covers a number of aspects of global warming, including the difference between weather and climate, the geologic perspective on climate change, what individuals can do, and a sociological perspective on global warming.
The exhibition covers roughly 600 m2 and is primarily non-interactive, although a number of interactive exhibits have been added to highlight climate phenomena. Examples of interactive exhibits include several Exploratorium favoritos such as the tornado, turbulent orb, and water vapor ring. Several computer workstations cover topics such as El Nino, global temperature modeling, and calculating your carbon footprint.

A short but impressive multimedia presentation called “Eye of the Storm” plays in a well-designed theater located in the center of the exhibition. It impresses on visitors that major changes are coming and concludes with the question “Which path will you take?”

The exhibition is widely used by school groups, who can download the entire exhibition text and class worksheets from the museum’s website.

The museum has many other permanent natural history exhibitions. Two popular exhibitions involve dinosaurs and the 4.5-billion-year history of the Earth. A human body exhibition is perhaps the most widely used of all and is also the most interactive.
A particularly interesting temporary exhibition features the life and works of Carl Linnaeus, a Swede who developed the system of biological taxonomy still widely used today and whose 300th birthday is being celebrated this year.

One tidbit of administrative trivia for those who follow visitor data in museums: In 2004-5, the museum charged the equivalent of about $10 for an adult (18 years and up) ticket and hosted about 350,000 visitors. In 2006, the Swedish government decided that everyone should be able to visit the museum free, so admission fees were eliminated, and attendance jumped to 700,000. This year (2007), the government dropped the free admission program, and the museum went back to an adult charge of about $7. In response, attendance has dropped, despite the poor weather that has had many museums in Europe seeing record attendance. The museum is now hoping for about 400,000 visitors this year. This unplanned experiment might be of interest to museums that are experimenting with admission fees.

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