The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Fresh Eyes and New Voices. User Participation Communicating Thorvaldsen’s Collection of Antiquities

  • Julie Lejsgaard Christensen,, 2011
  • This is a re-publication of the article: Julie Lejsgaard Christensen – Unge øjne og friske stemmer – Brugerinddragelse i formidlingen af Thorvaldsens Antiksamling (Fresh eyes and new voices. User participation communicating Thorvaldsen’s collection of antiquities), in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1994, p. 114-123.
    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.


Fresh eyes and new voices. User participation communicating Thorvaldsen’s collection of antiquities

Bertel Thorvaldsen’s collection of more than 10,000 antiquities is today housed in Thorvaldsen’s Museum, where it is displayed exactly as it was for the opening of the museum in 1848. The préservation of the original exhibition constitutes a rare time capsule and an insight into a museum of the year 1848, yet it also simultaneously issues a challenge, for how is a static collection of antiquities to be communicated so that it retains its relevance and presence for its contemporary audience? With the special exhibition “Unge øjne på antikken” (“_Antiquity in a Fresh Perspective_”), Thorvaldsen’s Museum took up this challenge. The exhibition was the result of the work of 11 students of classical languages, from Gefion Gymnasium in Copenhagen, whom the museum had invited to be guest curators. The students interpreted and presented individual objects from Thorvaldsen’s collection of antiquities in a personal exhibition that reflected what they themselves would find relevant and interesting as museum visitors. The special exhibition was flavoured by Creative and original ideas concerning the way in which antique objects might be communicated and was markedly different to the permanent exhibition. Moreover, some of the students hosted ‘teen-talks’, in which they showed museum visitors around the special exhibition and gave talks about the exhibition and the antique objects as well as their personal experiences of their work on behalf of the exhibition. Preparation for both the exhibition and the teen-talks involved close dialogue between the young people and the museum’s professional staff. In this way, the exhibition project became a mutual learning process, in which the students gained professional insight, whilst the museum benefited from fresh inspiration regarding ways in which the antiquities collection could acquire greater relevance in the eyes of a modem audience and be actively used to engage younger visitors, who are seriously underrepresented in Danish museums. The experience of “Antiquity in a Fresh Perspective” shows, as has been the case for similar activities carried out by the museum, that the museum’s users are much more engaged with the museum and its collections when they feel that they actively contribute and that their contribution is respected and taken seriously. Both parties benefit enormously when the museum takes the time to involve its users and to take their contributions seriously. The special exhibition and its associated teen-talks presented the museum’s visitors with an original and polyphonic means of conveying the collection of antiquities. Not only did visitors receive an insight into the young people’s personal perspectives on the antiques, but the special exhibition itself also cast new light upon the collection’s permanent exhibition: because of the contrast between the special exhibition and its permanent counterpart, visitors were also encouraged to relate to the 19th century museum ideal, which created the framework for the genesis of Thorvaldsen’s Museum. In this way, “Antiquity in a Fresh Perspective” illustrated the views of both past and present toward Antiquity.

Last updated 11.05.2017