Sweden: Take a chance on the ABBA museum

By Ruth Evans

Sweden unveiled a permanent monument to arguably its greatest cultural influences since the Vikings this northern Spring... Abba The Museum.

Welcome to Abba The Museum. Photo / Supplied
Welcome to Abba The Museum. Photo / Supplied

Abba The Museum opened in Stockholm in early May to worldwide fanfare which, together with the "will they or won't they reunite" stories which inevitably accompanied the launch, gave music fans of a certain age permission to admit their adoration of the Scandinavian supergroup.

Leading up to the launch, fans were treated to details of the personal involvement of Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid in the museum project and the interactive nature of its exhibits. This was to be no ordinary, staid museum.

So, does the reality match the hype?

Abba The Museum is located at the Swedish Music Hall of Fame on Djurgarden island, which is home to some of the city's most popular attractions including the Skansen outdoor museum, the Grona Lund fun park and the Vasamuseet showcasing the 17th century warship Vasa, which sank in 1628 and was salvaged in the 1960s.

Djurgarden is easily accessible by tram, ferry and hop-on, hop-off buses and boats, with the latter being the perfect way to explore some of the highlights of this city comprising 14 islands.

Tickets for the museum can be bought online and, to avoid long queues, they specify your entry time.

Once inside, an impressive array of memorabilia awaits. It starts with a recounting of each of the band members' pre-Abba days illustrated not only through the physical exhibits but also by their personal reminiscences via the audio guide. In fact, being guided through the museum in this way, with Bjorn, Benny, Frida or Agnetha explaining the exhibits themselves, is one of the most memorable and informative aspects of the museum.

Reconstructions of the band's recording studio, the summer cabin where some of their most popular songs were written and even Bjorn and Agnetha's kitchen compete for attention with a collection of those unforgettable costumes, a display of gold records and an extensive array of souvenirs and collectables that bring memories of those early days of fandom, almost 40 years ago, flooding back.

But undoubtedly the museum's most impressive aspect is its interactive features. At various points throughout the museum, visitors can create their own personal memories through some clever use of technology.

The brave have the chance to become "the fifth member" of Abba, by singing along with holograms of the band members in action. It might sound kitsch - and objectively speaking it probably is - but it is also great fun for those who take part and those watching.

Other interactive options include quizzes to test your knowledge of Abba trivia or the more adventurous, such as creating a video of yourself boogying in front of a video clip of Dancing Queen (what else), recording yourself singing, or having a Wii-style photo of your face taken and superimposed on a figure in an Abba costume which mimics your movements as you dance away.

Visitors can store their creative efforts to a personal webpage and download them later, simply by using the barcode and identification number on their tickets. These interactive features appealed to one visitor from Liverpool, not a particular fan of the group himself, but who was accompanying someone who is. "There are people who like Abba and people who can't admit they like Abba," the Liverpudlian said. "I wouldn't be a real fan myself, but I found the techie things interesting, especially the holograms."

So, yes, Abba The Museum does live up to its hype. Dyed in the wool fans were always going to love seeing Agnetha and Frida's childhood photos and Benny's first accordion, but there is also enough to entertain and inform even those "who can't admit they like Abba".

In fact, with interest in the museum and visitor numbers currently so high, the only real difficulty is being able to take it all in.

The museum normally attracts between 1500 and 2500 people a day, and the 100,000th ticket was sold at the end of July.

The museum might be Stockholm's newest tourist magnet, but the city is a delightful destination in its own right - friendly and easy to navigate - and the proximity of the water lends a relaxed atmosphere to the bustle.

There are some absolute must dos on a visit to Stockholm, such as wandering through the narrow lanes of Gamla Stan, the Old Town, and enjoying one of the many boat tours on offer.

On a long, sunny Summer day, after indulging a passion for music and memories - and possibly over-indulging in one of Stockholm's unexpectedly excellent restaurants and cafes - there are few nicer places to be.

- AAP

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