Denmark’s Hans Christian Andersen museum given fairytale new look

An April 2020 drone photo shows the new Hans Christian Andersen Museum during construction in Odense.
An April 2020 drone photo shows the new Hans Christian Andersen Museum during construction in Odense. Photo: Mikkel Berg Pedersen/Freelance/Ritzau Scanpix
Denmark is honouring its most famous writer, Hans Christian Andersen, with a revamped museum that aims to immerse visitors in the fantasy worlds he created.

Visitors have expressed delight with the new museum, which reopened in the summer and saw renovation work completed this month before it was shut as part of Denmark’s efforts to fight a Covid resurgence.

From “The Little Mermaid” to “The Snow Queen”, the works of the author affectionately known by Danes as “HC Andersen” have inspired countless Disney films, ballets, songs and books.

The old Hans Christian Andersen museum in the writer’s hometown of Odense in southern Denmark was a “traditional biographical museum” filled with “a lot of artefacts and text”, said Lone Weidemann, marketing coordinator for Odense museums.

But visitors “were looking for his fairytales, because that’s what they know”.

In a magical transformation that any fairy godmother would be proud of, city authorities have overseen a seven-year renovation of the museum into a sprawling complex above and below the cobbled streets of Odense’s old town. 

After entering the redesigned museum, visitors move through the modest cottage where Andersen spent his childhood in the early 1800s, before being swept into a vast underground space devoted to his stories — filled with animations, interactive exhibits and music.

The museum “takes you to a complete other world”, said Ara Halici, a tourist from the Netherlands who made the trip to Odense especially for the museum. 

“How fantastic it is to be taken away from your daily struggles in life,” he said.

Having arrived just days before Denmark shut down cultural venues to fight a resurgent coronavirus pandemic, his story at least had a happy ending.

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