MUSEUM GUIDE: Norway’s capital is full of museums, and they’re often in the news. We’re following that news, and aim to focus regularly on a specific museum or attraction worthy of a visit.
THIS WEEK: The Norwegian Museum of Science, Technology, Industry and Medicine (Norsk Teknisk Museum), which makes learning fun for all ages.
The Teknisk Museum is not a typical museum. Not many museums could fit a commerical airplane in the corner of an exhibition, as if it were a piano in a living room. Moreover, not many museums would allow visitors to climb up the stairs of that airplane and peer around inside. It was also a new experience to have the choice of using the elevator, the stairs, or a climbing gym to get to another floor.
The museum is 25 000 square metres in size – that’s the size of three soccer fields – and there are three levels. It has been open to the public since 1932, and has been at its current location in Kjelsås since 1985. The museum contains approximately 15 exhibitions, two of which are technically their own museums (the National Museum of Medicine and the Norwegian Telecom Museum). In the first museum-within-a-museum, visitors will read about the history of medicine and hospitals in Norway. They can observe the preserved body of a woman who likely died during a cholera epidemic in Oslo around 1850, at a time when the city was expanding and sanitation was inadequate. Diseases ran rampant and the life expectancy of a woman was 50 years, whereas it is now 81 years. The second museum – the Norwegian Telecom Museum – tells about communication in Norway back to the Viking era, and has a special exhibition about assistive technologies for people with physical or mental disabilities.
Remarkably, the museum’s exhibitions cover even more than the science, technology, industry and medicine that its name suggests. For instance, the very first exhibition is an extensive collection of musical instruments, dating back hundreds of years. It includes ordinary instruments like pianos and music boxes, as well as unordinary ones like the “theremin”, which is played without physical contact, and the mellotron, which The Beatles used to add sound effects to their music. An interactive portion of the exhibition offers three music studios in which visitors can play with a set of drums, a piano, and computers that mix electronic sounds.
The list goes on. There is an exhibition about the Industrial Revolution in Norway that occurred around 1850, another about the metals industry (visitors are shown the process of making a metal cogwheel), another about the oil, gas and energy sectors, and an exhibition about forestry. The transport exhibition is what contains a commercial airplane, along with smaller airplanes, a helicopter, a steam locomotive, and two dozen automobiles. The most popular car in Norway after import restrictions were lifted post-World War II is on display – this was the Volkswagen Beetle. There is also an entire exhibition devoted to clocks, one devoted to plastics, and the Science Centre contains a planetarium. Visitors can expect to come across a robot or two, as well.
This museum strikes a balance between bringing out the child within and creating an educational experience not only for children, but for adults. (Almost all the museum’s exhibitions have been translated to English, and an English booklet is available free of charge at the front desk.) Sections of the museum are quiet and peaceful, whereas others offer videos to watch, buttons to press, and interactive activities that raise the volume a little. The Science Centre in the basement is guaranteed to be buzzing with activity, with its mock wind turbine, mini skateboard jump and games, not to mention the classes of students that are often there. The quietest thing in the Science Centre is probably the device allowing users to speak from a distance of 20 metres using what looks like two face-to-face satellite dishes.
It is possible to see the entire museum in a couple hours, but it would equally be possible to spend the day there. In fact, the large café offering full, hearty lunches and snacks seems to suggest that visitors do just that. Alternatively, the museum contains so many exhibitions, each having so much to offer, that targeting a selection of exhibitions would also amount to a very pleasant visit.
The Norwegian Museum of Science, Technology and Medicine (Norsk Teknisk Museum)
www.tekniskmuseum.no (external link)
Open: Closed Monday. Open Tuesday-Friday 9am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm.
Location: Kjelsåsveien 143, 0491 Oslo. Take bus #54, #22 or #25 to Kjelsås Stadion, or trikk #11 or #12 to Kjelsås.
Admission: Adults NOK 90, children, students, and seniors NOK 50, families NOK 220.
ALSO IN OUR MUSEUM GUIDE:
Ski Museum at Holmenkollen
Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (HL-senteret)
Nobel Peace Center
Oslo Jewish Museum (Jødisk Museum i Oslo)
Oslo City Museum (Bymuseet)
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Ibsen Museum
The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet)
The National Gallery
Norsk Folkemuseum (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)
The Viking Ship Museum
Summertime at The Munch Museum
The Natural History Museum – Botanical Gardens
The National Museum – Architecture
The Kon-Tiki Museum
The Maritime Museum
The Polar Ship Fram Museum
“Be a tourist in your own town”