Malmö’s first national museum to focus on ‘democracy and migration’

Change starts with one small step, whether it be a large or small scale project, it all requires movement. It’s a logic that can be applied to starting a new national museum from scratch, especially one with an innovative theme that is going to take several years to come to fruition.

Malmö's first national museum to focus on 'democracy and migration'
Illustration by Anthony Iswandi

The Museum of Movements (MoM) intends to put Sweden’s third largest city on the map. By focusing on democracy and migration, the team behind the venture want the 190 (and counting) different nationalities in Malmö to recognise themselves in the museum. 

“This is an ideas museum; it is not a museum of photography or an art museum. We are not married to any particular way of storytelling because it is a concept,” Armando Perla, project leader of museum development and strategic partnerships at MoM, tells The Local. 

The concept in question being democracy and migration. Operating from a clean sheet of paper, the team at MoM have the backing of the city of Malmö, as well as state support, to create a museum that truly reflects the cosmopolitan nature of the southern city. 

What began as an idea, via a letter from local politicians to the Swedish minister for culture, quickly yielded ambitious plans for a full-scale national museum. A feasibility study was done and money was allocated by Sweden’s cultural department to create a new museum for democracy and migration

MoM’s co-directors describe the planning stage of the museum as a very open process. For example, more than 600 people and over a hundred organisations have been involved in the genesis phase. MoM will have a strong emphasis on research and be linked to the local universities in Malmö and Lund. 

Click here to find out more about the latest developments in Malmö

“What’s unique about this museum is that it is going to take on the gaze of the civil society movements on democracy and migration,” says Fredrik Elg, co-director of MoM. 

Elg adds, “Malmö is an example of a multicultural city that has constant movement. There is a very strong civil society movement here; we have a tradition for that.”

MoM was born out of the belief that every person has a right to their own history. Garnering those stories is pivotal to the museum’s organisers explains Armando Perla. 

“We found from the feasibility study that there was a need from people to hear those untold stories, which haven’t been a part of the official narratives of migration and democracy, to be told in a museum like this. People feel like they haven’t had the chance to tell their own stories,” he says. 

MoM project leader Armando Perla with MoM co-director Roxana Ortiz. Photo: Fredrik Elg 

And telling those stories in a non-traditional way is what is exciting the team tasked with shaping the museum. MoM has a workshop in central Malmö where ideas are being generated. 

“People want to see stories such as oral histories and artefacts. Then we need to find the best way of telling the story, which can be anything from art through to technology. Those ideas will take shape in different ways,” says Perla. 

MoM’s manager of development and strategy knows all about movement and starting museums. Born in El Salvador, Perla moved to Canada when he was 21 as an asylum seeker and has a background in human rights law. He helped establish the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and worked there for nine years before accepting the challenge to head up MoM. 

His colleague Fredrik Elg, who has previously worked for the Swedish Arts Council with issues concerning free speech and democracy, describes Perla as MoM’s ‘dream appointment’, which, aligned to Elg’s cultural background and local knowledge, ensures that the museum’s vision is in good hands. 

“This is the first national museum to be located here, which is a big deal for Malmö. It will have a ‘glocal’ narrative so we can use the closeness to the movements in Malmö to tell a bigger story,” says Elg.

He continues, “One strength is that we are starting with a concept whereas most museums start with a collection of some sort or a specific place where something happened, etc. We can start from scratch with everything with what we want to collect. Who are we? We are very much influenced by civil society so it needs to be a lively space.” 

Click here to find out more about the latest developments in Malmö

Photo: Bergsgatan 20 where the MoM workshops will take place

Where that lively space is going to be has yet to be determined. A recent location study has identified three potential places in central Malmö to be the permanent home of MoM. With most of the funding being provided by the state, the museum is expected to open in 2024 at the earliest. 

“It is a national museum but has its roots in Malmö so we are connected to the neighbourhoods and the people here. We want to represent those stories and want whoever is here to recognise themselves in the museum. Malmö is a city of innovation and we are taking that approach here,” says Perla.

This autumn, the Museum of Movements team will meet with academics, civil society organisations and the museum sector to progress with the development of content and structure for the full-scale museum. The first conference on ethical guidelines in relation to oral history, in order to put in place ethical principles before curating the collections, will be held in August. Two workshops will be organised for November to further develop these ethics. 

“We have quite an amazing list of participants from around the world, highlighting, for example, the experiences and gaze of indigenous groups and national minorities. The autumn program will also include a number of other collaborative measures, using our temporary workshop space at Bergsgatan 20 as a vehicle to bring us to a full-scale museum around 2024. We will soon launch our website with further information,” concludes Museum of Movements co-director Roxana Ortiz.

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This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Malmö stad.

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‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT


Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden