I love museums – in a very conservative way. I want them old and dusty and free from the plague of pedagogy. One such museum where I have spent much time wandering through the seemingly endless collections of artifacts is the New Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, established in the early 1880’s. It is a remarkable museum with a winter garden surrounded by collections from almost all times and places. Most notable perhaps are the collections from classical Greece, Rome and ancient Egypt. When I take the kids there, the highlight is always the descent into the ”Egyptian tomb” where there is an actual mummy on display along several objects and caskets from graves of pharaonic times. There are no narratives to be found in the room, but the objects themselves; documents, in Suzanne Briet’s sense, of a distant and strange time. They exilerate the mind and triggers our fantasy.
Last weekend I took the children to an exibition in Malmö, promising a full experience of ”Tutankhamun – the tomb and the treasures”. It proved to be the very opposite of old style museum exhibitions. It was a commercial exhibition and as such it could be expected to display the very latest in exibition standards. Visitors were given headsets at the entrance and put into groups taken in through a series of films telling the story of the young Pharao and the excavations of his tomb in the 1920’s. Facts were given in a semi-dramatized way with readings from what must have been Howard Carter’s diaries performed in the local South Scanian dialect. When the actual ”tomb” was entered, the visitors were left on their own devices and it was possible to stroll around the objects in silence with headsets on. It was a completely non communicative experience and the thought of free discovery of the displayed treasures and their meanings was just not there. The fact is that not even the treasures were there – what was shown were replicas and copies of the strange and fascinating objects and documents so remarkably found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. There was even a replica of a corpse; a ”real” mummy – most definitively not that of the young king.