Study visit 1: Tyresta National Park

Tyresta is a special national park. Although it’s only 20 km south of Stockholm, it’s still an area of virgin forests. Unlike most national parks, its establishment resulted from strong engagement by environmental protection groups and, for that reason, it acts as a model for developing and demonstrating good practice and innovation in park management for other, more remote, Swedish protected areas.

Tyresta is also an excellent place to discuss the role of nature interpretation as part of building a national identity – consciously or even sub-consciously. It acts as a gateway to Swedish nature and national parks and provides visitors an overview, within its visitor centre, of the parks from north to south of the country. Staff are working on ideas for a new exhibition in the visitor centre and, at present, are developing a new capercaillie adventure trail for children. Linnaeus would call the bird Tetrao urogallus! They will discuss their plans with us and this will give us a good opportunity to consider how we interpret the values of the park for children.

The study visit provides a chance to debate how the strong civic engagement that founded the national park is channelled into today’s management and interpretation. How could interpretation link the park with its civil society roots? How should different target groups like adults and children, domestic visitors and international tourists be addressed?

The interpreters and managers of the national park have warmly invited us to take part in the interpretation and discussion on how the Park’s interpretation can be built upon and enhanced.

Study visit 2: Skansen

Skansen is the world’s first open-air museum and was established in 1891 on Djurgården island near the centre of Stockholm. The creation of Skansen stems from the romantic ideas and the patriotic spirit of the late nineteenth century – the founder wanted to arouse a holistic picture of Sweden by illustrating complete environments. They include fully-furnished houses staffed by people wearing period costume and surrounded by their domestic livestock in a rural landscape. Even wild animals from all over Sweden form part of the collection.

This concept has proved to be highly successful and Skansen now attracts 1.4 million visitors a year. And of course its open-air museum approach has found imitators all over the world. Costumed first- and third-person interpretation have a long-standing tradition at Skansen but the large number of visitors mean that the educational staff are now considering up-grading self-guided interpretation. While Skansen’s managers strive to broaden horizons for new visitors and help them overcome stereotype attitudes, many repeat visitors just come to enjoy nostalgic sentiments.

We will discuss Skansen's approaches to interpretation and its opportunities to enhance a holistic interpretation of the relationships between nature and people.

Swedish people’s inherent awareness of strong links between nature and culture are an aspect of Swedish life which is often inaccessible to immigrants. Can a site like Skansen help them to understand?

Other themes that will be discussed are how the interpretation of Swedishness has changed over the decades. How did interpretation deal with minority groups half a century ago? How can ‘difficult’ aspects of history be interpreted in a respectful way?

Study visit 3: Vasa museum

The salvage of the warship Vasa is an amazing success story – but its construction certainly wasn’t! The ship was launched in 1628 as the most modern and impressive fighting vessel of its time – but its maiden voyage lasted only half an hour. While it was still within sight of Stockholm, it capsized and sank immediately. Many spectators on shore witnessed the drama.

The wreck was raised from the seabed in 1961 and became a unique object of scientific research. It now stands proudly in the most-visited museum in Scandinavia. Exhibitions around the ship provide many insights into the life in the early 17th century and different displays deal with different perspectives. But why and how did the catastrophe happen? How was the ship built? What was life like on a warship in those times? How did European powers fight for domination over the Baltic region? How did the ordinary people in Stockholm endure poor conditions?

The Museum’s Education unit will be our guides. We will discuss ways of working with large and diverse audiences that include schoolchildren, local people and very many visitors from all over the world. Managing visitor flows around such a vulnerable asset at a highly visited tourist attraction is a major challenge. Interpretation and education aim to be a social force and be part of people’s learning and development. Interpretation of the Vasa offers huge opportunities to reflect on citizenship from a national and a European perspective, and also from the viewpoint of different social groups...

Monday evening

After the full-day study visits you can choose how to spend Monday evening:

  • You can stay in Stockholm and enjoy a three-hour boat trip with a three-course dinner. The cost will be 500 kr and is not included in the conference meals package. Find out more...
  • You can stay in Stockholm and explore, on your own or with friends, Sweden's elegant capital, including fascinating Gamla Stan, the Old Town, and make your own travel arrangements to return to Sigtuna.
  • You can return to Sigtuna on the trip bus and enjoy a free evening among the delightful surroundings of Sweden’s oldest city.

In order to arrange the buses we need to know in advance which option you prefer. Dinner on the boat will be offered only if a minimum number of participants book this option.

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."
John Cage