Monday, July 2, 2012

The Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet

by Dariusz Hareza and Lauren Ceckowski

This week we took our learning outside the classroom with a visit to the Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, also known as the Natural History Museum.  Professors Dag Avango and Mark Safstrom took our class to explore exhibits such as "The Diversity of Life", "Polar Regions" and "Mission: Climate Earth" all of which related to topics we had covered in class. Some of us found a connection to home by relating the Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet to the Field Museum back in Chicago.

"The Diversity of Life" was a display of plant and animal specimens compiled from collections that were started as early as the 1730s.  Some of the specimens on display were gathered during Arctic and Antarctic expeditions of the 19th century.  Many of the collections belonged to the aristocracy, as displays of the odd and exotic were a sign of wealth and status. Many historical figures were represented in this exhibit including Carl Linnaeus.  Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist, known as the "Father of Taxonomy", who is a very popular figure in Swedish history.  The museum even had a wax sculpture of Linnaeus on "display" along with his collections.

"Polar Regions" depicted the flora and fauna characteristic of the Arctic and Antarctic regions of the globe. Massive whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling greeted us into the exhibit and left a feeling of awe. The polar bear, elephant seals, and musk ox gave us a view into the ecology of the arctic regions we will soon be visiting.

"Mission: Climate Earth" was a fascinating exhibit conveying the growing concern of climate change.  It discussed the potential effects on the environment and the world population and how the individual can do their part to decrease their impact.  We all found it amazing that even though we all are studying different disciplines, we were able to collectively relate to the issues presented in this exhibit.

As we have spent more time in Sweden we realize just how extensively English is used in society. We became so used to being able to use English and be easily understood that we were shocked to find out that the museum exhibits were mainly only in Swedish. This both added and took away from the experience at the museum. It was frustrating to not be able to understand what some of the exhibits were trying to portray, but we were extremely lucky to have our Swedish classmates there ready to help translate anything we were confused about.  This was the first time we had a good chance to interact with them and we took full advantage of this opportunity.

Overall, we were very excited to learn more about natural history, especially that of Sweden, throughout the visit to Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet. Making a connection between the exhibits and our studies was a rewarding experience.  With a little taste of the Arctic, we are itching to get some hands-on knowledge in Svalbard!

Dariusz Hareza is a junior studying Molecular and Cellular Biology with Honors Concentration, minoring in Chemistry, and is Pre-Med. He is from Oak Lawn, IL.

Lauren Ceckowski is a senior studying Earth, Society, and Environment with a concentration on Society and the Environment.  She is from Gurnee, IL.


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