The curiosities at the University of Copenhagen Geology Museum are well worth a visit if you have a free couple of hours in the city.
I have to admit, I think Copenhagen is my favourite city. My husband spent last year living there and I got to know it quite well but I never managed to visit the museum in that time. It isn’t open regular hours, so check before you go.
The view of the Botanical Gardens at the University of Copenhagen from the window of the Geology Museum.
The museum isn’t huge but there are a number of small exhibits over two floors and you can look round in an hour or two. It is located in the stunning Botanical Gardens which are well worth a walk through and, if the weather is nice, there’s a small cafe where you can buy a coffee to sit on the grass and appreciate the surroundings. The gardens are completely free to visit.
At the entrance to the Geology Museum you are greeted by the sixth largest fragment of meteorite on Earth, Agpalilik. You can touch it and have your picture taken with it, if you like. It looks like a large rock. Hard to believe that it is actually made of iron and weighs a massive 20,000 kilograms. The fragment is from the Cape York meteorite, named after the place it was found in Greenland. It collided with earth around 10,000 years ago and you can learn more about the meteorite, its discovery and formation inside the museum.
There are four main exhibition spaces in the Geology Museum at the moment. The majority of the exhibition descriptions are written in Danish and that made for a fun game of ‘guess what this is’. It helped that I was there with a geologist who could answer some of my questions. That said, the people working in the museum were incredibly helpful and explained/translated some of the information that I was particularly interested in. They are student volunteers so if you do go, make sure you do chat to them.
The tour starts in the ‘Solar System’ exhibition which includes a slice of one of the largest meteorite fragments on the planet. You may have noticed a chunk missing from the meteorite in the picture above. It’s an impressive sight. One side hasn’t been treated but the other has been polished. You can even see my reflection.
You can see dark patches in the meteorite which are the rare earth mineral, troilite. There’s a fantastic online resource, written by Danish scientists, detailing more about the solar system exhibit, the story of the meteorite fragment discovery and the work of researchers at the University of Copenhagen here.
The Solar System exhibit features videos from current research scientists which are fantastic. The videos include a story of the discovery as told by Professor Vagn F. Buchwald who found the meteorite fragment. He also explains how they created the slice of the meteorite displayed in the museum. Cutting through solid iron isn’t easy. The videos also tell stories of the importance of studying diamond dust, formed from the explosions of dying stars, which is helping us to understand the early universe.
I really liked the way this exhibition integrated physical objects with the current scientific research and the scientists involved.
The Hubble Deep Field image on the ceiling gave me some ideas for when I redecorate my bedroom too.
Moving away from space the other exhibits included a geological history of Greenland in some fantastic exhibition cases. This part of the museum is all in Danish.
Upstairs is my second favourite exhibition in the museum, Flora Danica. The exhibition tells the story of the creation and printing of the complete volume of wild plants and fungi native to Denmark. The exhibition includes unpublished works too that have been kept hidden for 130 years in a store room. Flora Danica is a real art – science collaboration from the 18th Century. You can see the beautiful images online here on the Royal Library website.
The museum also houses the All things strange and beautiful exhibition. This contains some of the rather bizarre collections and letters of the 17th Century Danish physician, Ole Worm, who’s collection of oddities made one of the first museums in the world. He had a keen interest, as a physician, in new cures from nature. Beside the objects displayed are his own interpretations of what they are, and what they meant. These include letters to Pliny the Elder about stones which guarantee to ensure ‘prophetic dreams’. Some are amusing to read but they do remind you of how we have categorised and learnt about the world around us through observation, study and communication.
A horses jaw enclosed in an oak tree root, from the cabinet of curiosities
I especially enjoyed his scientific debunking of the ‘mouse that fell from the sky’ a common myth that Norway lemmings, which have rapidly fluctuating population, were spontaneously generated in the clouds. Ole Worm disproved this by dissection, demonstrating that the lemmings have sexual organs, but he did admit that the lemmings could be swept up to the sky by the brutal Scandinavian winds to then rain down from the clouds.
‘The mouse that fell from the sky’ the Norwegian Lemming
Lastly, but by no means least. It wouldn’t be a geology museum without a minerals collection. This one didn’t disappoint and it came complete with a display of fluorescent rocks.
The Geology Museum is part of the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum (which is actually made up of several museums). There’s a lot of redevelopment going on to create a large, connected, museum. The plans look fantastic and I hope I can revisit the museum when it is completed in 2017.
The museum costs:
Adults DKK 40
Children (age 3-16): DKK 25
Students at University of Copenhagen Free admission
You can also buy a season ticket DKK 140.- (adults) and DKK 75.- (children) – also valid at the Zoological Museum and to special exhibitions.
It is free for those that have purchased a Copenhagen Card.