We wrote and edited booklets to be used by school children, and with the help of professional writer and theater instructor four of the employees performed a play about climate change – called The Last Polar Bear.
Tired Earth: An Interview with Jytte Thorndahl, Curator of The Danish Museum of Energy

This interview was conducted by Selva Ozelli


What was the idea/inspiration behind creating the Danish Museum of Energy which is located in a scenic landscape along the river Gudenaaen, next to the historic Tange hydro power plant for sparking ideas and dialogue about clean energy?

The museum opened to the public in 1984 with the name Danish Museum of Electricity, idea was to give information about the Danish system of electricity, how it was produced, distributed and used by the inhabitants, the aim was also to inspire young people to study technology, engineering and physic. In 2011 the name change into Danish Museum of Energy as most Danish electricity companies had change their name into Energy Companies. And the museum had changed vision and purpose into dealing with Energy, and especially renewable energy.

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) Denmark and Costa Rica embarked on a "first of its kind" alliance of governments that has committed to phasing out the production of oil and gas. How will this factor into your museum's educational and exhibition programming since Denmark's ambitious goals to reduce carbon footprint and achieve sustainable growth is globally relevant?

At our museum we always take into account the latest and newest information about political goals in our programs for schools, students and ordinary guests. We inform about Danish goals within reduction of carbon footprints and sustainable growth. We tell what we have actually achieved, and what we can to in the future.

Tell us about your Museum's initiatives concerning education in order to preserve Danish cultural heritage within the area of energy and promote lifelong learning and understanding of energy as an important pillar of society.

The Danish museum of Energy is a state authorized museum with the obligation to do research, collect and preserve objects and disseminate knowledge about all aspects of energy, especially in Denmark. We cooperate with other Danish museums and as well internationally within ICOM, with technical and scientific museums and centers. We collect wind turbines, Solar panels, electric vehicles, steam engine, as well as all kinds of electric objects. In 2007 we made the first special exhibitions on changing climate and rising levels of CO2. We wrote and edited booklets to be used by school children, and with the help of professional writer and theater instructor four of the employees performed a play about climate change – called The Last Polar Bear. Later we made a two-week event for school children, high school students and ordinary visitor on climate, with keynote speakers, guided tours, and exhibitions from companies about the technologies that could help outlet of CO2. For many years guided tours have been Renewable Energy – where we tell about the hydroelectric power plant, wind turbines, solar energy and how we can store electricity as hydrogen. During the last 16 years we have hands on workshops for school children in building and testing wind turbines, testing different profiles of wings, and also testing different forms of solar energy.

We have made an outdoor travelling exhibition telling about the different technologies that will help making life more green. And this exhibition has been shown in 15 different cities and towns in Denmark. We also have an outdoor exhibition named 'Changing lives', showing the carbon footprints of Danish citizens, and quotations from a research project performed by the museum – with citizens of the town of Aarhus on their way of life into being more green. During school vacation we offer roasted insects in the garden of the museum, along with a debate with visitors about what we should eat in the future, among other things we should eat less meat. This year and next year we have obtained money from a fund to carry out a project called 'Smart everyday life'. Two teachers from our museum and a short film producers have been educating 50 classes of children in schools all over Denmark by telling about climate problems, asking the children to make an invention that will help daily life to be more green and then have the children make a one-minute short film about their invention. This project will be performer also in 2022. At the moment we a preparing also an educational program on Power to X for school children. We are also preparing a new permanent exhibition on power to X.

During the next three years the museum is part of a research project on 'The fossil city'. In this project we will look back and measure the carbon footprint of Danish life during the last 140 years, from the time when the use of fossil fuels entered Danish energy systems through, gas, electricity and kerosene, gasoline, diesel etc. We will write a book and make educational programs following the result of the research.

This year, The International Committee for Museums and Collections of Science and Technology (CIMUSET) which is a scientific committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) during its 48th #CIMUSET Annual Conference: "Museums & Environmental Concerns, New Insights" -7-11 November 2021, addressed our planet's environmental concerns and how Science and Technology museums can approach and present this important issue via education and exhibitions. When did the Museum get involved in climate change related issues and what programs has it instituted? Tell us more about your presentation at this conference please.

Please see 3. My paper at the CIMUSET annual conference in 2021 had the title 'Plans for a new sustainable museum of Energy in Denmark'. For several years we have wished for a new museum building for our museum. But we do not want to tear down the older buildings but rather reuse the building as far as possible, so we have a plan for reuse of the older buildings, enlarging and opening up, and reuse whatever is possible and for the main building use wood instead of tile, steel and concrete. In this way we will have a 50 -60 % saving by choosing to reuse the building saving around 400 tons of CO2 in the building process. We would like to reduce materials and energy in the lifecycle of the museum. At the moment we have architects working for us, securing a sustainable way of building and planning the outdoor area. A prospect for the new museums buildings and outdoor area will be finished by March 2022.

What partnerships does the Museum have? Does it collaborate with the UN?

We have partnerships with other museums, Danish Technical Museum, and the Technical Museum of Iran (INMOST). We are involved in research projects with other museums and some universities. In general, we take part in CIMUSET's annual meetings and ICOMs triannual meetings. We collaborate with Energy companies and Universities about new technology.

How can people reach your Museum's exhibitions? Do you have digital reach?

We have a home page www.energimuseet.dk, but it is new and not yet translated into English.

How can environmental artists reach you if they have an exhibition idea? What is the application process?

Write an application to [email protected].


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