Museum monthly: “A distant war” at Tøjhusmuseet
It’s museum time again!
As you know, I have this plan to go to one museum a month, since I felt like I wasn’t taking advantage of all the great cultural opportunities Copenhagen has to offer. And yesterday was Great Prayer Day, so a day off from work; and while most stores and supermarkets were closed, a lot of museums were actually open.
On my way to work, I always come by the Black Diamond, the royal library. Next to it, I saw signs advertising two exhibitions, so I did some research and found out that it is the Danish Arsenal Museum, Tøjhusmuseet, that’s located there, in between the Black Diamond and Christiansborg.
We got super lucky with the weather, too – it felt like spring had finally arrived in Copenhagen!
Before heading to the museum, I met with two students from CBS who wanted to interview me about the blog for a school project – super exciting! We sat with coffees on the wooden steps by the water in front of the Black Diamond and chatted away while enjoying the warmth and soft breeze.
Then, the boyfriend and I stepped in the courtyard and into the museum.
The Danish Arsenal Museum is a specialized cultural history museum, focusing on the wars Denmark has fought over the centuries. It is located in the actual Arsenal, which was built in 1604. On the ground floor, there’s a big artillery exhibit, while the first floor is dedicated to the different wars Denmark has been involved in from 1500 until today. However, the first floor is currently closed due to renovation (until 15 May 2016).
There’s a small exhibition about April 9, 1940, when the German army invaded Denmark. The Danish troops were severely out-manned and surrendered after only about four hours of fighting, managing to keep casualties very low. A very interesting exhibition, as this is normally not more than a side note in World War II history in Germany, but obviously massively affected this small country I now call home.
But the main exhibition, and an absolute eye-opener, is called “A distant war” (“Den fjerne krig”), which retraces the deployment of a Danish soldier to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, recreating a Danish military camp.
The exhibition starts with a punch to the gut, as you step into a young adult’s bedroom, with three large duffle bags packed and ready to go. Wall-mounted iPads show video interviews with Danish soldiers, and we learn about the last will, funeral arrangements, and goodbye letters every soldier needs to complete before being deployed. Then we step through the door, onto gravel and sand, and into Camp Bastion.
Note: This exhibition is very realistic, and it (as well as potentially the pictures below) might be unsettling to veterans.
What is remarkable is that every piece used in the exhibition has been brought back from Afghanistan from ISAF team 10, which was stationed there in the fall of 2010 – used, worn, and scribbled on.
We get a view into life at a forward operations base, a makeshift base in the middle of the desert with no comfort or privacy. We even get to climb up into a watchtower, armed with a heavy machine gun. All guns in the exhibition are real, but not functional.
In the last piece of the exhibition, we see a Danish Eagle vehicle that’s been hit by an IED (roadside bomb). Luckily, nobody was killed, and only two soldiers were injured. The wall-mounted tablets show interviews with some of the soldiers who experienced the attack, as well as one soldier’s wife. Her interview was simply gut-wrenching for me – just thinking about being in her situation for six months, with a loved one in the danger zone far away, was more than I could handle. I remember when my boyfriend signed up for the Royal Guard, he had to go through four months of basic military training, and a lot of the guys from his unit (those that weren’t going to be guards) were actually going to Afghanistan afterwards. I remember asking him about seventeen times if they REALLY couldn’t make him go there, but yesterday, I made sure to ask him again (even though it’s been four or five years since he completed his guard duty).
At the end of the exhibition, you step into Roskilde airport, where friends and family are waiting, waving Danish flags. That moment definitely had me choking up – the whole exhibition is a real eye-opener, and even though it is definitely disturbing in some ways, it is incredibly interesting, especially if you (like me) don’t have any first hand knowledge of the military.
But it was definitely nice to be able to step back outside into the sun!
We strolled along Frederiksholms Kanal, before sitting down for a quick lunch in the sun on Strædet.
I mean, how ridiculously pretty is this?!
Have you been to Tøjhusmuseet, and have you seen the Afghanistan exhibition? Share your thoughts in the comments, I’d really love to hear them.
I hope you have a wonderful, sunny weekend!
Royal Danish Arsenal Museum (Tøjhusmuseet) | Tøjhusgade 3, 1220 Copenhagen | open Tues-Sun 12-16 | free entrance | en.natmus.dk