As we make our way through the new Maritime Museum together with the museum’s chief executive Hanna Hagmark-Cooper, it feels as though the museum has been built especially for children. There is so much that’s exciting. And “interactive” seems to have been the order of the day. But in reality it is simply a museum where the story of Åland’s maritime history is told by professionals for professionals. What has turned it into a tour de force is making all information accessible to people of all ages and interests.
Here you get to climb the rigging and touch the objects on display
The sailing ship section has a genuine rigging to climb and a ship’s wheel astern on the deck. Hanna starts the visit by remarking that they already have a number of signboards on order. They say things like “feel free to climb the rigging”, “do pick things up” and “pull on the ropes”. This is a place where you are allowed to pick up things that are on display. Not exactly something visitors to museums are used to ...
Ruby the ship’s rat
Almost immediately I notice that there are rat holes in the new display cases. Already? Hanna explains that Ruby, the ship’s rat, has moved into the museum with her family. Now all short-legged museum visitors can take part in a rat hunt through the whole museum! While the more long-legged visitors take time to read the texts and explanations about the items displayed and the history behind them.
Loading cargo on to the ship
One floor down there are sections on shipbuilding, marine safety and marine engineering. Here there is a proper life raft you can crawl on to. And a loading jigsaw puzzle. Look at the stowage plan, find the right pieces of the jigsaw and then load the ship! If you want to do some test loading as it was done in the last century, there are blocks, tackle and 15 kg loads of oranges, fish liver oil and other goods for moving.
Miniature karaoke bar
We stroll on. Towards more modern times. Admire all the model ships, from the sailing ship and cargo vessel to modern cruise ferries. And then – karaoke! Behind a white cabin door is some karaoke equipment. All you have to do is choose a song, take the mike and start to sing. Now we get to entertain the other visitors.
A genuine pirate flag
We complete our visit at the dark, rather exciting curiosity cabinet. This is where there are loads of macabre souvenirs that the Åland seamen brought home with them from their voyages. A shark’s jaw, masks, dried animals, a tortoise from Pitcairn Island where the mutineers from the Bounty settled, a 300-year-old model of a 17th century Spanish frigate and – of course – the pirate flag! One of only two genuine skull-and-crossbones flags in the world.
Facts:Åland's Maritime Museum is located in the western harbour of Mariehamn, right above the museum ship Pommern. The same ticket is valid for visiting both.
A ticket costs 10 euros and you get “two tickets in one”. You can either choose to visit the museum twice, or to visit the museum and the museum ship Pommern.