Gothenburg City Museum

Last week I went to the Gothenburg City Museum in downtown.. uh.. Gothenburg close to the central Brunnsparken transportation hub. I had been to the museum a couple of other times in the past, but I wanted to make a special visit to check out the new exhibition ‘Gothenburg from Above’, which is a series of aerial photos taken over the past 10 or so years by Swedish photographer Lars Bygdemark. Entrance is free if you’re 25 or younger and still a very affordable 40 kronor if you’re older.

The museum is actually housed in the 18th century Swedish East India Company’s former office and warehouse building. It is also just across the street from the impressive and historic Chalmers house (the past residence of the guy who founded the university in 1829).

Once inside, the museum actually starts with a primer on the origins of human life in this part of Sweden from thousands of years ago. It quickly moves on to the age of the Vikings which is obviously a focal points for a lot of visitors. When the average person thinks about the Vikings, there is a tendency to gravitate towards their legendary ships and weaponry, but the museum does a nice job of also providing some context to everyday life and artifacts in addition to a summary of their history and an outline of the main points of the Norse belief system. One of my friends who visited the museum with me is a blacksmith who marveled at many of the pieces in the museum. According to his informed opinion, the quality of the work exceeded his expectations based on the available technology of a thousand years ago.

A Viking relic. Photo: B. Seward

In 1933 a local farmer found this 16 m/52 ft Viking longship while doing some work in the Göta River. This is the only Viking ship on display in all of Sweden and is estimated to be from the 10th century, making it roughly a thousand years old! Sorry for the poor image quality here; I didn’t bring a tripod with me so it was tricky to shoot in low light. You get the idea though, and honestly the handcrafted Viking artifacts were more interesting to me than the remnants of this ship.

Remains of a Viking longship. Photo: B. Seward

The exhibits then shift forward in history from the Norse era to the arrival of Christianity in Sweden. There are many religious period pieces on display, but I was drawn in more by this handmade iron and copper chainmail from the 1500s (my Game of Thrones knowledge is leading me to believe that this is technically called a ‘hauberk’) . It seems like it would take the craftsman/blacksmith hundreds of hours to construct something so intricately.

500 year old chainmail. Photo: B. Seward

Anyway, Gothenburg was officially founded in 1621 and quickly became a major trading hub due to its location on the coast and its connection with the Göta River. The 1700s brought the rise of international trading, where tea, silk, spices, etc. were sold in the building the museum currently sits today. A small collection of representative goods acquired from the Far East through trade is pictured below.

Historical objects acquired through international trade. Photo: B. Seward

As I mentioned at the beginning, I made this trip primarily for the special exhibition ‘Gothenburg from Above’. I finally arrived at the top floor and was greeted by a massive landscape of the entire city.

Gothenburg from Above. Photo: B. Seward

The gallery itself contains pictures of nearly every neighborhood and landmark within the city limits. When considering the history explained in other parts of the museum and examining the surrounding geography of the city, it’s easier to see how certain areas developed into their current states.

Part of the photo gallery. Photo: B. Seward

The detail is really impressive, especially considering that sunny, clear days are hard to come by here along the Swedish west coast for a large part of the year. I suppose that’s why it took the photographer around 10 years of sporadic work to complete the project. In the image below, the Vasastan neighborhood is on the far left, the amusement park Liseberg is in the background on the far right, and your guess is as good as mine for the middle picture.

More of the gallery. Photo: B. Seward

There was a nice balance of industrial areas depicted too. This photo in particular is an interesting perspective on some of Volvo’s inventory.

Volvo. Photo: B. Seward

This exhibition is going to be in the museum until January of next year, and I would highly encourage anyone to visit it to gain a new perspective on many familiar sights and perhaps some inspiration to explore other undiscovered parts of the city.

Have a great weekend – I’m going to be keeping a close eye on my favorite annual sporting event, the NCAA basketball tournament, via the internet.