Monday, October 27, 2014

Tomas Tranströmer on the @Naturhistoriska (Natural History Museum, Stockholm)

2014.10.26-IMG_23132011 Nobel Prize winner, poet, psychologist, translator, Tomas Tranströmer wrote an evocative description of the Natural History Museum (Stockholm) in his memoir, Memories Look at Me (1993). More about him on his website.

I had the opportunity to visit the museum (all to briefly) on my way to the TDGW 2014 meeting. We had some short meetings at the museum and then boarded a bus for Jönköping.


As a child I was attracted to museums. First, the Natural History Museum. What a building! Gigantic, Babylonian, inexhaustible! On the ground floor, hall after hall of stuffed mammals and birds thronged in the dust. And the arches, smelling of bones, where the whales hung from the roof. Then one floor up: the fossils, the invertebrates.

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At the entrance, two elephant skeletons met the visitor. They were the two guardians of the gateway to the miraculous. They made an overwhelming impression on me and I drew them in a big sketchbook.

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When we decided to make a day of it we would finish up in Stockholm Central Station, which was nearby, and watch the trains come steaming in, life-sized.

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Finally arriving, I would be greeted by the elephant skeletons. I often went directly to the “old” part, the section with animals that had been stuffed back in the eighteenth century, some of them rather clumsily prepared, with swollen heads. Yet there was a special magic here. Big artificial landscapes with elegantly designed and positioned animal models failed to catch my interest — they were make-believe, something for children.

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The scientific method I was closest to was the Linnean: discover, collect, examine.

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I would work slowly through the museum. Long pauses among the whales and in the paleontology rooms. And then what detained me most: the invertebrates.

Memories Look at Me: A Memoir (1993) by Tomas Tranströmer

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