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Elsinore’s Maritime Museum Brings Shipping to Life

Elsinore’s Maritime Museum Brings Shipping to Life

Design innovations such as M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark are breathing new life into Elsinore Docks

There’s just one problem with an architecturally innovative museum that’s built in a subterranean dry dock: it’s virtually invisible from street level. Still, there’s no doubt that ”X” marks the spot for buried treasures between Elsinore’s new Culture Yard and Kronborg Slot, in the form of M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark (Museet for Sofart).

The museum, which opened in the second half of 2013, has already garnered plenty of international attention. The New York Times’ included the museum on its list of “52 Places to Go in 2014,” and the museum’s won a slew of architectural and design prizes – including a 2014 RIBA Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects – for a design that has certainly not shirked from Elsinore’s heavily industrial past.

The Maritime Museum as seen from street level, with Kronborg Castle in the backgroundThe Maritime Museum as seen from street level, with Kronborg Castle in the background — Photo courtesy of Rasmus Hjortshoj / Museet for Sofart

The shipyard, which covered the entire area between the town and Kronborg Castle, was the town’s biggest employer for more than a century before its closure in 1983.

Traces of the old shipyard remain, like the rough, imposing wall of the cafe, still stained by the watery elements. There’s nothing pristine about this architecture, but there is plenty of light. Despite its below-ground location, large glass windows look out into the dock along one side.

Visitors enter the exhibit as if embarking upon an underwater journey. The eerie UV light, projections, sound effects and atmospheric music create a feeling of otherworldliness. The museum’s intention is for us to understand the sailor’s lot. It’s different from other people’s in all aspects, from its perils and its shore leave pleasures to its loneliness and exotic temptations.

Turn the corner, and you’re faced with torpedoes and an air attack, as the world is turned upside down with the outbreak of the First World War.

Entering the exhibition space is like walking into a quite different worldEntering the exhibition space is like walking into a quite different world — Photo courtesy of Thijs Wolzak / Museet for Sofart

The museum is created to be interactive, but there are no boats to climb aboard. Instead, the entire museum is like the hull of a large ship, exhibits arranged like crates in the cargo hold.

Step into a genuine vintage tattooist’s chair, select one of the sailor motives and give yourself a “real” tattoo. (Thankfully, parents, these wash off.) Try selling Faroese woolen socks to Africa or keeping profits up by shipping commodities around today’s global world with a number of digital shipping games – then and now.

Before you leave Elsinore, take a moment to ponder the Elmgreen and Dragset statue Han (Danish for “him”) outside on the harbor. The stainless steel figure of an adolescent male on a rock, Han makes very clear references to the bronze statue of the Little Mermaid, situated a few miles down the coast in Copenhagen.

For the full experience of what Elsinore has to offer, the combi-ticket for both Kronborg Slot and the Maritime Museum is ideal.

Elsinore is just 30 minutes from Copenhagen by train on the regional coastal line that runs from Copenhagen’s three largest stations: Hovedbanegården, Nørreport and Østerport.

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