- I grew up in Jutland but my paternal grand-mother lived on Zealand. When I used to visit her during school holidays, we would go on trips to Copenhagen. Naturally we would visit the amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, but we would also always spend time at the National Museum of Denmark. As a result, I’ve experienced the development of the museum first hand through many years. Even back then I used to think it was an amazing place, partly because it was such a great big building. I remember the first time I saw a bog body there, going into the display room and looking at this man that had been lying in a bog for thousands of years. I found it such an odd experience! The National Museum of Denmark is definitely worth a visit. The museum excels in interpreting and presenting the history of Denmark in such a way, that it may be accessible and easy to understand for everyone.
- I’ve been going to museums since I was a child. I practically grew up next to a museum, Hjedding Dairy Museum, which was once the first co-operative dairy company in Denmark, and the Ølgod Museum of Local History was located right next to our town library, where we used to spend a great deal of time during my childhood. So I grew up with museums, and still love going to museums, whenever I get the chance, especially if I don’t have too much time to linger, but can keep coming back for more.
- I had the most remarkable experience at ARoS (Aarhus Art Museum) once, on a visit with my youngest daughter about two years ago. It was an installation by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson where you walk through coloured fog. It was exceptional. We could barely see each other. The fog turned into hues of magenta or yellow as we moved about, and we completely lost our sense of orientation. We didn't know where we were, or whether we’d ever get out again. It was a very unique experience.
- I also had a great museum experience with my family one year on a holiday in France. We had sailed out to a small island called Île-d’Aix, just off the west coast of France. It’s a tiny, fortified island where Napoleon famously visited. So there’s a Napoleon Museum. But there’s also an African Museum, Musée africain de l'île d'Aix, with zoological and ethnological artefacts, including the camel Napoleon supposedly rode during his campaign in Egypt!
It’s a classic old-fashioned museum with exhibition cases presenting stuffed animals carefully lined up on the African savannah. I would absolutely recommend everyone to visit this place, it’s an amazing museum experience because it’s as old school as it could possibly get. What we thought was particularly striking, and thought-provoking and exciting, was their dodo bird, even though the dodo became extinct hundreds of years ago!
At the museum, they had made a reconstruction of a dodo as they thought it would have looked; a fake taxidermy created with parts and feathers from other birds. Being a museum of natural history, based on science and facts, it’s such a peculiar thing to come across a sort of performance, a staging or work of art, in the middle of it all. I think it’s a great illustration of the fact that museums not only show things as they are and were, but also constructs certain ideas of how things are and were. And I think that’s a really good thing to be reminded of once in a while.
- If you’re into contemporary art you should visit The National Museum of Photography at The Black Diamond – The Royal Library or the National Gallery of Denmark. The local history of smaller suburbs is exhibited at Greve Museum, Ballerup City Museum and Helsingør City Museum. And if you want to explore natural history go see the exhibition The Body Collected at Medical Museion.
About Margrethe Vestager
2014 – European Union Competition Commissioner
2011-2014 Denmark's Minister of Economy and Interior Affairs & Deputy Prime Minister
2007-2014 Leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party
1998-2001 Denmark's Minister of Education
This article was published in the magazine Curator, june/july 2015.