Monday, June 18, 2012

The Wonders of Skansen

by Sarah Buckman, Pratik Patel, and Alex Li

On Wednesday, we had our third excursion to Skansen. Skansen is very special because it is not only an outdoor museum, but also a zoo. Skansen is the first outdoor museum in the world, founded in 1891. It is also a miniature of the whole of Sweden before the industrial era. Walking from the very south to the very north in Skansen, we can see different styles of buildings from the south to north in Sweden. Among them, the Sami camp left the deepest impression on us. One of the most interesting places to go in Skansen is the zoo. Different from the typical zoos we’ve seen in the United States, Skansen provides the animals with a larger natural habitat for them instead of a cage. We can see a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles disappearing and reappearing in the forests and jungles. The zoo also provides glimpses of native Scandinavian animals, such as wolverines, brown bears and eagle owls.

Although rain halted our exploration of the open-air museum for a short period of time, many visitors, both young and old, could indulge in the homemade sugary treats or other goods produced by the Skansen employees. Fitting into an authentic model for what a pre-industrialized folk society would seem like in Sweden, the daily jobs of bakers, dairy farmers, glassblowers, and other craft workers at this museum maintain a high level of successful self-subsistence, which advocates for the flexible preservation of cultural histories. The representation of Sami peoples, the oldest known indigenous population found in the northern-most area of Scandinavia dating back to more than 5,000 years ago, have been of great interest to us in our studies due to the great commonalities with the historical and geographical maltreatment of the North American indigenous populations. It is their successful reindeer husbandry, fishing techniques, adobe-like architecture, and the history of their nomadic movement that distinguishes the Samis from other indigenous populations as well as other Scandinavian cultures. Greater appreciation should be shown to the Sami peoples for the great knowledge they have shared to advance our knowledge of the Arctic sphere.
Attending the educational trip to Skansen, we were able to get a sense of Swedish culture. On our way to the educational park, we did not know what to expect or what we would learn from it. However, on our way home on the trolley, we felt a connection to the country in a way we had not felt before. We were able to grasp the depth of what culture was like for the Samis and how they adapted their lifestyle to such a harsh Arctic environment. As we discussed in class, Skansen is not only meant for outsiders to get an understanding of Swedish culture, but local Swedes can also take a part in the journey to discover the truth about their history. We would definitely recommend this to others because it’s not only educational, but also a lot of fun. Workers employed at the park are extremely friendly and did an excellent job of portraying Swedish culture.

Sarah Buckman is a senior in both Global Studies and Spanish with a concentration geared in environmental sustainability. She usually resides in the city of Chicago.

Pratik Patel is a senior studying Atmospheric Sciences with a concentration in Atmospheric Dynamics/Chemistry. He resides in the Northwest Suburbs near Chicago.

Alex Li is a sophomore studying Agricultural Engineering. He is an international student from China at the University of Illinois.


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