Karlskrona Naval Museum, Sweden
SHF volunteer and guide, Jan Larsen and her husband, visited the Karlskrona Naval Museum in Sweden in July 2017, during an overseas trip.
Jan reports on the visit and her impressions.
The Museum itself: It is located on the water on the island of Stumholmen connected by a small bridge to Trosso, the main island of Karlskrona, part of an archipelago in southeastern Sweden.
Map of small island of Stumholmen (attached to main island of Trosso) – a World Heritage listed site. The naval museum is in Building 5 and the historic building where small boats are stored is Building 3. The storage area is known as the ‘Slup’ and ‘Barkasse’ (Sloop and Longboat) shed, open for display in the summer. Other buildings are used as offices and for conferences.
There is a two storey modern building with a wharf alongside where three museum ships (two minesweepers/attack boats from the 1940s and 1970s and a training tall ship, Jarramas, built 1900) are moored. Nearby are historic heritage buildings including one which houses many of the museum’s small boats. The museum was celebrating its 20th year in 2017.
Entrance to Karlskrona Naval Museum – celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017
The Displays: The main ground floor area of the museum which was light and airy included:
- History of the area and naval base
- Ship models and explanations how these were used in shipbuilding in times when shipbuilders could not read
- Tools and navigational instruments, ropes etc.
- Information and models of life on board early ships
- Figure heads of old ships
- Child-friendly areas for interactive activities
- Museum panels which contained a section in English (albeit smaller than the Swedish description but nevertheless very helpful)
- Many interactive computer displays in four languages (Swedish, English, German and Finnish)
An excellent submarine wing was also located on the ground floor. The significance of submarines for the Swedish Navy was very evident during the Cold War with the proximity to the Soviet Union across the Baltic Sea. The display included:
- Two submarines – one small earlier submarine and a much larger one, Neptun, from the Cold War period (the latter open to walk through).
- An excellent history of the development of submarines with models of different types around the walls linking them in historical time with about foour or five photos of significant world and Swedish events and text in Swedish and English.
- Interactive panels on the operation of submarines in four languages – Swedish, German, English and Finnish.
The ground floor area also included a large well-attended restaurant/café area and a museum shop near the main entrance.
The upper floor of the museum building held a special exhibit on the Cold War with display panels and videos of significant events. However the panels and subtitles were all in Swedish so not so user-friendly to non-Swedish speakers. The subject of the exhibit highlights Sweden’s continuing concerns about Russian submarines in the Baltic Sea.
Tall ship JARRAMAS, built 1900, seen from inside the Museum building
The three ships alongside the wharf next to the museum building were open to the public but there did not appear to be any guides permanently on duty on these ships. However there were tours at fixed times, with an English tour at 1:00pm of the ships and the historic building containing the small boats. The tour was interesting but relatively short with the need for the guide to cover the shed and the three ships.
Tall ship JARRAMAS
The sloops with the Museum’s three large floating ships in the background
Of particular interest to me was the tall ship Jarramas built 1900 as a training ship for boys. Restoration, though well advanced, was not nearly at the level achieved on James Craig and the ship does not sail, being only a museum ship. Unfortunately there was no access below deck on the two naval ships. The guide indicated that there were only a few volunteers associated with the museum and they were mainly involved in maintaining, and sailing from time to time, the half dozen or so historic sloops moored near the small boat shed.
The Sloop and Longboat shed (1786) in an artist’s impression. The caption on this painting indicated that the smaller boats of the Fleet were stored here. The floor was tilted which made it easier when the boats were to be launched. The roof “reminiscent of an egg carton” drains off rainwater through a system of pipes. See the map of Slumholmen island above with this building shown as Building 3 for the roof detail
The historic building with the small boat display (“Slup & Barkass” in Swedish) was interesting, with panels of labels on the different types of boats on display including longboats, skiffs (“ekas”), jolly boats, pinnaces and life boats. Restoration work on small boats was carried out in a roped-off section of the shed. I could see how use of an historic building on Cockatoo Island to display the SHF’s small boats could be similar to this display at Karlskrona and work very well.
Inside the Sloop and Longboat shed. There are panels describing the different types of boats stored here – longboats, pinnaces, jolly boats, lifeboats, and more. Of particular interest is the Blekinge EKA used by the Navy and Coastal defence forces for practising their sailing skills. This traditional boat of the area, and similar craft in the Baltic, were built with keels and not used as ships’ boats. They were very seaworthy and used extensively by fishermen.
Overall impression: Our visit to the Museum was, on the whole, a very positive one because of:
- The English text on panels on the ground floor – albeit briefer than the Swedish – but this added to our understanding and enjoyment of displays. On the top floor in the Cold War exhibition, the lack of any other language but Swedish was a disadvantage.
- The interactive computer screens in four languages (Swedish, English, German and Finnish) around the main floor exhibitions including the Submarine Wing, which enable visitors to explore certain topics more deeply.
- The excellent Submarine wing where it became evident how important submarines are to the Swedish Navy especially in the Baltic.
- The museum app – which unfortunately I didn’t download at the time but is available through iTunes – MARINMUSEUM app. There are sections in a number of languages including three sections in English.
- Simple printed guides in several languages at the entrance to the museum. These had a floor plan of the museum and surrounding ships, and the small boat historic building, as well as a simple list of ‘Five things you must see and why’.
- Guided tour in English available once a day to the three alongside ships and the wonderful heritage listed small boat shed. This immediately brought to mind what the SHF could do in one of the large convict built heritage buildings on Cockatoo Island.
- Of course the child activity areas and interactive child friendly displays were an attraction for families.
- Interesting history on why the Swedish Navy moved the naval base to the Karlskrona archipelago (easier to defend than Stockholm and not so prone to being ice-bound in the winter) – and more.
There are a number of ferry boat trips (2 hours or so) calling in at the various islands in the Archipelago where there are several historic forts. These are operated by commercial ferries and have nothing to do with the museum but well worth doing. This made me think of our SHF tours on Sydney Harbour. There was a recorded commentary – hard to hear if you sat outside as we did. The town maps had walking routes for tourists which were also helpful.