February 28, 2023 – The “ENIGMA – Museum for post, tele og kommunikation” opened its doors to the public in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 25th of February. The exhibition, designed by ATELIER BRÜCKNER, offers a journey through the past of communication, linking it to the present, and activating people to think about the future. It encourages the museum´s visitors to explore, to exchange and to reflect. The museum aims to push the boundaries of a traditional cultural institution by re-defining its role in a society that has entered the digital age.
“The task we set up for ATELIER BRÜCKNER was an almost contrapuntal challenge for a museum”, says Jane Mylenberg, Museum Director. “We wished to create a flexible exhibition design that enables us as a museum to relate to and reflect on a world in eternal change. We will often need to change the content and layout of the exhibitions to best be able to give our guests an informed basis and sharpen their critical sense. Inventing a flexible toolbox, ATELIER BRÜCKNER made our sustainable vision visual: designing a museum where everything is flexible – as our life is today.”
The museum is located in a former post office housing the exhibition “Communication in Crisis”. It tells the story of how the speed at which societies develop communication technology increases when crises strike. The exhibition is staged as a darkened, dynamically activated environment, while the museum´s “Ideas that Connect Us” exhibition is located in bright and light flooded spaces providing an archival journey through communication and media history. It is a journey through a continuous library of historical artefacts, as well as hands-on and digital interactivity.
A grid structure along the ceiling, connecting the exhibition thematics and expanding across the spaces, creates an infrastructure for exchangeable exhibition elements such as hanging interpretive panels as well as hanging filmic storytelling and audio installations. A flexible showcase and exhibit floor system, on the other hand, incorporates updatable objects, artefacts, as well as haptic and digital interactions. A modular labelling system complements the scenographic setup and allows for interchangeability and regular content updates.
The museum´s chronology spans from the establishment of the Danish postal service in 1624 to the use of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites to provide internet to Ukrainians in the ongoing war. The thematic exhibition “Communication in Crisis” expands on historical eyewitness stories and grand narratives and provides alternative approaches in the present era of mass-communication and for the future.
One of the key objects is an Enigma machine, housed in an immersive setup within the thematic area “Strictly confidential”. Further themes are “Someone’s Watching Us” highlighting the historical Danish national surveillance organisation the Department C; “In the Event of War” is exhibiting the emergency and safety practices and protocols of the Danish government in the state of war, and lastly, “Alternative Truths” tackling issues linking to governmental transparency regarding the news and information distribution, culminating with the artistic documentary “In the Event of Moon Disaster”.
The themes become tangible through scenographically staged spaces, i.e. a reconstructed bunker, and are accompanied by “Empowerment Kiosks” where visitors are invited to interact and input on current thematic i.e., how long it takes a hacker to decrypt your personal password that has just been entered.
Spatially the themes are arranged around a central forum installation where visitors actively take part in a communication debate connected to a collective digital cloud. How often do you back up your computer? Are you prepared for a crisis? Are some of the questions to be answered. The visitors contribute with their own reflections on these specific topics. The responses are gathered and displayed by an LED ring as an abstract colour-based morphic infographic. Its light spreads in space.
The “Ideas that Connect Us” exhibition is located in the adjoining building with daylight. It is characterized by modular shelving that surrounds the rooms. The objects are arranged chronologically within the themes: Postal, Telegraphy, The Telephone, Wireless, Radio, Television, The Mobile Phone and The Internet. QR-Codes provide additional information on demand and interactive installations invite visitors to investigate the former technologies.
At the centre of the rooms, large workshop tables can be booked for school classes, transforming the space into a laboratory. Tinkering with technology helps us understand it better, including technology that others have created for us. The tools we use to communicate changed over time. In this museum, visitors are invited to take part in shaping the future of communication. Every technology started as an idea – an idea to change the world.