#46 National Museum of Greenland

My name is David Howell and I would like to adopt the National Museum of Greenland.

Museum Entrance (Photograph by David Howell)

Museum Entrance (Photograph by David Howell)

Tell us a bit more about yourself

I’m a PhD candidate and lecturer with the University of Wales, Newport, looking at the role of heritage sites and museums in the development of national identities. I mostly look at museums and sites in Wales, but have a keen interest in the cultural sector in Greenland and Iceland. I’ve been fortunate enough during my research to have been able to travel around those three countries, learning about very different cultures, but the very familiar way in which they present their nations’ stories.

Tell us a bit more about your adopted museum
The National Museum of Greenland can be found overlooking the harbour in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland (on the western side of the country). The museum tells the story of the development of communities in Greenland, exploring the varied influences that have come to have an impact on the culture and landscape of the island, but it is probably best known for its collection of natural mummified remains from Qilakitsoq. The museum is open throughout the year, but has reduced opening hours during the dark winter months and while there is a small entry fee of around £3, it is free for all students and children.

Why have you chosen to adopt this museum?
It being situated in Greenland, means that in terms of profile and visitor numbers it is not the most well known of national museums. However the work done at the museum is nothing short of what you would expect of any other nation leading institution, playing a leading role in museology, archaeological research and increasingly fulfilling an essential role recording the many, but threatened, examples of intangible cultural heritage in Greenland. In visiting the site, I found I had discovered a museum that excelled in telling the story of the people of Greenland, through familiar displays but also through touching art installations. This is an important museum, playing a key function in the infancy of Greenland’s political awakening. I can only hope that more people engage with it, and I would be proud to adopt this museum, and in doing so, hope to encourage others to make the visit should they find themselves in Greenland.

Why would you recommend people visit?
For a visitor to western Greenland, I would make this a must see site. Greenland is a country experiencing some rapid economic and social changes. The approach taken by the museum serves to capture an image of Greenland which is increasingly difficult to find in communities today, in some instances lost forever. While efforts (led by the museum) are ongoing to try and protect the most threatened aspects of Greenlandic cultural heritage, its decline remains a concern. While we would never want to see Greenlandic culture become fossilised in a ‘visitor packaged’ ideal, there is much of the Greenlandic story to be found under the roof of the museum, and it is an important story to be known. Perhaps in knowing, we can help contribute to the sustainability of that which makes Greenlandic society so distinctive – and I can think of few reasons that are more important to engage with a museum’s stories.

How would you sum up your museum in three words?
Challenging, Important, Enlightening.

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