Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Nobel Peace Center

Nestled at the edge of a vibrant harbor, with spectacular views of City Hall and Oslo's islands, lies the Nobel Peace Center. The other Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm, yet for unconfirmed reasons the Peace Prize is awarded here. Throughout my three whirlwind weeks in town, I passed by often, whether walking for a movenpick ice cream cone, or enjoying an al fresco dinner by the fjord. The yellow building called to me but something else always came up. The second to last day, July 17, was my last chance.

I arranged my visit to coincide with the free English tour at 12pm. The admission was not free, so my friends opted to walk around instead. They were curious, but wanted to save their money for other museum fees. I had always been impressed and inspired by the idea of a Peace Prize, and now that President Obama has received it (with much controversy) I wanted to learn more about it and to see the Obama exhibit. There was also a great exhibit on the first floor about apartheid in South Africa. Ever since I read J.M. Coetzee's novel Disgrace, which focuses on the hardships in post-apartheid South Africa, I have been extremely interested to learn more.

Our guide, wearing the staff t-shirt featuring notable recipients (Al Gore in the largest letters) took us first through the South Africa exhibit, featuring art, photographs, and sculptures. One image really struck me, an important metaphor for what was happening in South Africa during apartheid.

How long could this small minority continue to control a population large, powerful and angry.  This could not last.  Something was going to happen . . .

Our guide explained more about the art.  Next, we saw a sample of the peace prize:

We moved upstairs to the Obama Exhibit "A Call to Action."  When Obama received the Peace Prize, he was surprised and humbled while many people wondered "Why?"  A large sampling of the reactionary news and magazine articles are posted in the exhibit along with several explanations from the Peace Prize Committee, explaining how Obama fulfills the ideals for the prize as stated in Nobel's will.  Obama accepted the prize as a call to action.


It's interesting to post this today because it's Obama's birthday.  

There were some very cool features of the exhibit.  In fact, you could pick up Obama's blackberry and call Nobel's phone (answered by a friend) to discuss options for peace.  TVs played several clips of Obama's speeches, and a giant book was set up for children (and I suppose the young at heart) to record their thoughts and images of peace.  I spent over a half hour looking through the book, uplifted and moved by the ideas.

A sample:

I added to the book on a page with other teachers . . . but accidentally misspelled Mark Twain.  Oops!  

After the Obama exhibit, we were led to an interactive wall with information about past recipients.  I spent time looking at information about Elie Wiesel (I teach Night and I had the honor to hear him speak at City College in 2008).  I could have spent hours with the interactive board, but that can be saved for future visits.  I also took a look at the interactive book (a real book used with a projector -- you touch the pages and videos play, you can move things, etc).  Uplifted and inspired by everyone's work and dreams for peace, I went through the exit where they had star stickers and blue curtains.  I added a sticker with my own wish as I left.


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