Energy Efficient Museum Buildings, part 2

Okay, back to my post on a course that we recently attended in Copenhagen, on the Design of Energy Efficient Museum Buildings. On the Wednesday, we went to the Open Air Museum in Sorgenfri and the Museum for Industrial Culture in Brede.


As the name implies, the area contains a number of different sites, all loosely connected; we visited most over the course of the day with specific aims at each destination, all related to our discussion of museum microclimates. We all came to the course with ideas about what is acceptable and what is not in terms of environmental parameters – would that change at all over the course of the day?

Part of the farmhouse

Firstly, we toured one of the farmhouses at the open air museum. This house has no climate control as such, just the building to buffer whatever the external climate is (the whole site is closed to the public during winter). Annual temperature and RH fluctuations inside the house are way outside what anyone would recommend for a museum. We were supposed to have a look and decide, is this okay? The house appeared to be in excellent condition, it was obviously well looked after.  The only damage that anyone could find was a crack in a wooden cupboard that looked recent, and a few bugs. Otherwise the artifacts seemed to be adequately preserved. The RH in particular certainly reached percentages where we have been taught to expect mold growth, but there was none.

During this period we also had a walk around the rest of the open air museum, as this was to be the site where we would later be asked to design a new museum building (more on that later)…

Huge workhorses having a romp

Next we toured the Brede Manor House, once considered a very fine summer-house for the owners of the industrial works; in fact, such an effort was made to build and furnish the most fashionable home possible, that it bankrupted its owner, and the family may have ended up in the workhouse.

Protecting the marble floors in Brede Manor

We had a really excellent tour of the 18th century house by an ethnographer who works on the estate; it was probably the best tour of a historic home that I’ve ever had because her take on the history was entirely within the context of the period. She explained the significance of everything, from the architecture to the beds. Again, the building was not air-conditioned or heated in any way; the only environmental control was a ventilation system that brought in fresh air from the outside.

A door showing layers of surface decoration over the centuries

During restoration of the house, cut-aways of the different layers of surface decoration were made, to show the change in fashion from one owner to the next. The house was restored to look as it would have done when it was built.

Intractable conservation problem?

We were told that the mirror above is an example of an object that can’t be conserved. This mirror dates from when the house was built, and was extremely expensive; it’s surprising that it’s lasted this long, but now the mirror is decaying (I can’t remember if it is the tin or mercury in the mirror that’s the problem),  which is visible in the sparkly-looking dust around the edges. It’s not a process that conservators can halt or reverse. Tim said that if it were possible to tip the mirror upside-down periodically and shake it, then the life of the mirror could be extended, but the risk of an accident is obviously too high to do that realistically.

Travelling 3-section wardrobe

This wardrobe is coll because it detaches into three separate trunks, so you can easily take all your most important linens with you wherever you go!

Tiny beds for the unmarried ladies in the house

I didn’t know that the reason so many old beds are incredibly short is not because people were smaller, but because it was considered mortally dangerous to sleep lying down! Something about different types of bodily fluids mixing if you slept lying down, and this could cause death. In Copenhagen at least, even bums slept on the streets with harnesses around their waists, to keep them seated upright at all times.Incidentally, the room is painted blue because apparently if your daughter was born with blond hair, fashion dictated that you must paint the bedroom blue (pink for brunettes).

Oak chair, carved to look like bamboo

Finally, I liked this chair, which is actually oak but carved to look like it’s bamboo, because everything Asian was in vogue during that period in Denmark. I think this will extend into a third post…

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One Response to Energy Efficient Museum Buildings, part 2

  1. Mary Jane Harbison says:

    Hi Kristi: Please write more about the tour of this house. It is so interesting. I am really enjoying following your exploits via the blog. This must be a fantastic experience.

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