I really hope that new name is not a bad omen, enigma normally meaning riddle or something mysterious or inexplicable. I do not know what to make of the temporary exhibit they have, while the transition is taking place from the old Post & Tele museum to Enigma. The new name seems to become ironically appropriate in many more ways than they intended, I think.
On the 12th of July 2017 I visited the museum. It was confusing getting there, bewildering to be there and I was puzzled afterward, pondering what to make of it.
Preparing my visit: a website here and a website there
I was warned beforehand, by a fellow collector, that the museum was under construction and that there was a small temporary exhibit. Just as well, as that is not immediately clear from the information on line.
Curiously both sites fail to mention the other explicitly and do not explain that the PTT-museum is transforming to the other. At first I did not understand that the two were one. We had a flyer with a walking tour through Kopenhagen, mentioning the PTT-museum at the old address. And googling the old museum it gave the new address and the name Enigma. The old website still gives the old description of the museum and even the old address, with no mention the new location, or Enigma, except for the link to the new website. Although the link was there, there was no explanation why it was there or a description of what could be found on that link (see picture on the right).
At least the old website had an English section. The new site does not. I read it through google translate. It promises “A house full of knowledge, debate, lectures, workshops, live words and memorable experiences. At the house stage we conduct daily live events and there is something for both children, adults and families.“ So I decided to visit the new address, not being quite sure what I would find there.
Exhibit? What exhibit?
The Enigma.dk website said there would be an exhibit. Arriving at the museum building I found one large room accessible to the public, most of the space taken up by a big open kitchen and rows of long dining tables. This is Enigma Torv, Enigma square. “A square filled with activities and experiences. A place where the word is set free and knowledge is in play.”
To the right was a small post office and there were rows of pigeon holes along the walls with various items. There were also some display racks and everything was filled with either artisanal designer glass work and ceramics or oh so cleverly designed stationary and office supplies. “Design products and digital gadgets” the Enigma site says.
Dotted all over the room were some items from the postal and telephone world of yesteryear. Old phones, letter boxes, a phone booth, a display case with sections of historic telegraph and telephone cables. So, I suppose that was the exhibit. Silly me, I expected something more cohesive.
Where are they going to?
All this makes me apprehensive about the direction this institution is going in. Being a keeper of telecommunications heritage, having “expertise in communication”, one would at least expect understandable information and a clear message. But two websites, not explaining how they relate to each other, vague and ambiguous announcements of what can be found currently at the site of the future enigma.dk do not bode well.
I have seen it before, old style telecommunications museums trying to reinvent themselves to adapt to the modern world, striving to give their visitors a broad experience rather than showing objects. And consequently they broaden their subject to such an extent that they lose themselves in the process. Leaving their visitors wondering what they are about.
Lunch instead of books
I had hoped to find some books on Danish telephone history in the shop. And there were one or 2, but that was it. What there was on telephony, was in Danish only and not what I was looking for. So, after having looked around I decided I may as well have some lunch. I could at least report about the cuisine.
I was not disappointed. Modern, freshly made, food. Not junk food, not too hip. I had a the danish take on the croque monsieur, which was very nice. And the coffee wasn’t bad either. And in front of me was a red Ericofon, chained to the table. Not a bad view. And yes, you could touch all the exhibits.
Mothers & children
One thing that struck me was the large amount of young women with baby’s hanging around. In the time that I was there at least 20 came and went, staying for a while, playing with their kids on the floor, and having a tea or a juice, chatting amongst themselves. Old telephones and ancient postal items are not known to have a large fan base among young women, so I was very surprised at this. I decided to ask some of them about it. It caused some laughter among them, when I introduced myself as a telephone collector and expressed my surprise and puzzlement, after visiting many telephone museums, to find so many young mothers here. They explained to me that they were from the surrounding area and found it a nice place to spend time with their kids.
The name Enigma is derived from the German WW2 coding machine, of which they have the oldest example in their collection, in which they take great pride. I found this in an article from april 2016 in the news section of the site. That was about the only concrete information I could find about the old museum becoming the new museum.
For a while I wondered if they were obscure and confusing on purpose, their name carefully chosen to fit the concept: a riddle, a mystery, unexplainable. Because I still do not understand why I went there and what it was I actually visited. I hope things will improve when the museum itself finally opens in 2018. I do not recommend anyone to visit, at the moment. Unless you are a young mother of course.
Enigma, musuem for post, tele og kommunikation
Øster Alle 1
2100 Copenhagen Ø.
Monday Tuesday 11-18
Post Office Monday-Friday 11-18