The world washed up on Denmark’s shores
Strandingsmuseum is perched on one of the most notorious and dangerous stretches of coastline in Europe. Since 1800, more than 1,200 ships have been wrecked off this coast. Lives and livelihoods have been lost here. But it also a place alive with cultural exchange – where people from around the world have passed through and made a home.
Our task was to expand and redesign the museum. Our overarching concept was Stories from the Sea – we treated the shipwrecks as sites where stories about life, culture and society can be read and explored.
Inspired by the sea
The design takes inspiration from the museum’s location, its perch next to the ominous North Sea. Big media installations and vantage points bring the sea inside. A three-storey projection shows the North Sea in all its states –angry and stormy, deathly and still – and the experience culminates in a viewing platform looking out to the sea that has claimed so many lives.
A standout moment is the retelling of the wrecking of HMS St George – one of the most tragic disasters in naval history. The gallery is a vortex of waves washing around you as the ghostly shadows of the ship’s crew come and go amongst the screams and shouts of people scrambling to help from the shore. The effect is utterly mesmerising yet remarkably simple in construction – a mirage of wireframe models and AV installations. An abstracted evocation of the ship holds hundreds of artefacts excavated from the wreck that tell tales about life on board. St George’s giant rudder sits in the heart of the museum. As you move up the stairs, you view the rudder from different levels before emerging onto the viewing platform to look out to where the ship was wrecked and still lies to this day.
Continue the cultural exchange
In Untold Stories from the Sea, visitors are armed with a torch. Shining the light on the collection reveals warped and encrusted objects – treasure or trash? Interpretation explains how marine archaeologists find and identify objects underwater. Children can dive into a giant sandpit and search for buried treasure, while crabs scuttle around them. The Cultural Meetings gallery looks at the friendships and romances that followed a shipwreck. You can hear from the people who made a home here, never leaving the shores that nearly claimed their life, and the coastal residents who helped save them. A powerful installation features a chest of drawers full of warm clothes for survivors, cloths to wrap the dead and buoys to rescue the stranded.
The experience begins and ends with a stunning installation of messages in bottles. At the end of your visit, you are invited to put your own message in a bottle. This offers a moment of quiet contemplation and reflection as you put your words to paper.
All Shapes All Makes
Cultural History Museums, Municipality of Holstebro