Museum of wrecks – a sustainable way to show and protect the cultural heritage of the Baltic Sea

Talking about sustainability today feels both easy and extra fun. What does it mean to be sustainable? The concept of sustainability is made up by many different areas and can be described by various definitions. The most important thing is, of course, that the sustainability work becomes actionable, and that the actions are both credible and relevant.

We have just opened the new museum Vrak – Museum of Wrecks. Six years ago, it was decided here at the Swedish National Maritime and Transport Museum that it was time to bring focus on the cultural heritage of the Baltic Sea – and more specifically what lies beneath the surface. The Baltic Sea, which makes up our geographical limits, is a world-unique inland sea. In addition to the brackish water, the 80 million inhabitants, the lack of shipworms and the special wildlife, there are more than 10,000 wrecks in varying condition. There are several ships in the style of the Vasa ship, there are unique ships and cargoes and stories of wars, storms, groundings, and bad luck. It contains endless amounts of stories, from the present and back to Stone Age settlements, all important pieces of the puzzle in our historical description and understanding of the time we currently live in. All at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

From all this the idea of the museum “Vrak – museum of Wrecks” was born. The cultural heritage will be nurtured for future generations and their opportunities to ask questions and to make their own analyses be maintained. Our marine archaeologists therefore leave most of the archaeological finds still at the bottom of the sea while the stories and fantastic images come to surface, presented at the museum with the help of digital technology. It is an interpretation of the Agenda 2030 goal, No. 11 “Make cities and settlements inclusive, resilient and sustainable.” Sub-goal 11.4 is about our operations – “Strengthen efforts to protect and secure the world’s cultural and natural heritage.”

It is a sustainable way to work with wrecks and the stories around the wrecks and the remains. It gives people the opportunity to both look at the digital representation as well as giving the hobby divers the opportunity to see the wrecks in what has become their natural environment. It also gives future archaeologists the opportunities to ask their questions based on the then prevailing state of knowledge and society.

Vrak – museum of wrecks in the building Båthall 2 from the 1940s. Photo: Mikael Dunker

During the construction of the museum, we have reused a building from the 1940s, designed by Paul Hedqvist and we expect the entire museum to last for at least another 80 years. We are now filling the building with digital presentations and stories. The objects shown are mainly borrowed from other museums around the Baltic Sea.

The Vrak Café & Bar inside the museum has high standards when it comes to sustainability – the focus is on locally grown produce, menu according to season, smart and gentle working methods with minimal waste and of course a delicious coffee – organic and fair trade certified.

The shop carries a carefully selected range, from small manufacturers working in wood or other sustainable raw materials, to waterproof watches made of recycled plastic or why not a Costau hat made of wool – warm and smart when it comes to style as well as materials used and climate impact.

You can visit the Vrak – Museum of Wrecks with a clear conscience – just as it should be at Djurgården. It’s a good place to be.

Jan Naumburg 
Sustainability Manager