The FLUGT Refugee Museum of Denmark tells stories of hardship and hope

A new museum in the west of Denmark uses subtle touches of AV and powerful stories to give voice to refugees in a site of historical importance. Anna Mitchell takes a look.

The FLUGT Refugee Museum of Denmark makes connections. First there’s the modern looping extension that links original hospital buildings of the Oksbøl refugee camp and creates a modern, light and welcoming areas for visitors.

That serves to connect the significance of the site to the modern plight of refugees today. Oksbøl was built as a German military camp and in 1947 was repurposed to accommodate German refugees fleeing the Red Army. It went on to house 35,000 people up until the camp was dissolved in 1949. As well as telling their story, FLUGT pays attention to the recent experiences of Syrian and Ukrainian refugees, which are the first migrations that many Danes, and indeed Europeans, have encountered first-hand. It also goes back in time, and around the world, to look at the many movements of people and communities forced from their homes by wars, genocides and catastrophic events.

And finally, the museum forces visitors to connect the experience of refugees in the countries they arrive in, particularly Denmark, to both the traumas and the lives they’ve had to leave behind, as well as the harrowing journeys they’ve taken to reach their destinations.

The museum was conceived and is managed by Vardemuseerne, while the experience was designed by Tinker Imagineers who generated audio and video content and hired Stouenborg for technical design and AV and lighting integration on the project.

The visitor experience is built around a tonwelt audio guide. This meant Stouenborg had to install visual elements of the museum, which are heavily integrated with the audio guide, before the audio was in place. Kasper Stouenborg, director of Stouenborg and lead for this project, said: “We had to imagine how all the sound worked, the timing of the sound when walking from one space to another, when the sound triggers, and the length of the introductions. It meant we didn’t have insight into the full user experience during set up phases. That was a very difficult challenge.”

Visitors enter the museum through the new extension which makes use of floor-to-ceiling windows to bring light into an airy space that curves around a courtyard. The area houses a shop and reception where the audio guide is collected.

The exterior walls of the original buildings invite visitors into the darker interior of the main experience. Two Sony 65-in Bravia displays powered by Brightsign XT243 players installed behind the windows of the old hospital building give the impression of activity within and visitors walk through a doorway into the old building.

Throughout the museum content is served by local Brightsign players and Stouenborg notes: “There’s a lot of communication between those players to time and synchronise the content.”

The museum experience is made of a series of connecting rooms each with a distinct theme. As visitors enter the name of each space is projected by Epson LightScene EV-115 projectors.

Inside, the first area is called ‘Refugees In All Times’ and a large map of the world was created on the left-hand wall. This simple style is used in subsequent areas of the museum, linking the spaces together with a thread of maps, faces, symbols and designs as well as a coherent graphic design.

Using an Epson EB-PU2010B projector with an ultra-short throw lens, Stouenborg delivered content that annotates the map with visuals such as dots indicating refugee migrations and place names and dates. These are synchronised with the audio guide to give a brief introduction to the history of refugee movements right up to the present day.

Projectors had to be mounted to the wooden beams of the old building and throughout the exhibition Stouenborg faced this challenge when mounting speakers, lighting, sensors, projectors and other technical equipment.

“It’s always a challenge in an old building getting cables to the right spots,” adds Stouenborg. “It has been renovated so there were power and data connections but that was specified a long time before we went into the project so we had to accommodate those decisions. An important part of the design process was to adapt to the building.”

At the end of the introduction the audio guide directs the group to move through to the next space.

The dark area contrasts with the first presentation and, as visitors’ eyes grow accustomed to the dark, they become aware they are in a room of glass columns and chairs that are lit with small lights. Directed to take a seat each visitor chooses their place and sensors trigger the light on the selected seat to turn off.

The glass columns are coated with projection film and 15 Epson projectors fire up to beam a person onto each. The room has been cleverly designed so each seat faces a column, and therefore a projected figure. The effect is unexpected and forces the visitor to look face-to-face with the projected figured.

The person explains a life before a catastrophe that forced them to flee from their home and country, before explaining the experience of being a refugee. It’s a powerful reminder that no country or community is immune to disasters, as well as the negative reaction that communities can have to refugees. It humanises the refugee and forces the visitor to look at the world from their point of view.

“As a storytelling part this is a very strong one,” says Stouenborg. “You sit there and you have a person appear that is first a little diffuse and they come to face you as a real person. They command your attention.

“Technically it was a challenge to have 15 video projections in such a small room. We had to find the right technology and we ended up choosing small projectors from Epson’s consumer series. They are small, silent and have a relatively high resolution. They are not that bright, but we didn’t require that because we have a dark room. We were able to mount the 15 projectors discreetly; you don’t go into the room and think there’s a lot of equipment.”

The third space, ‘Leaving Home?’, is a room of rooms. Here the group experience ends and visitors can scan their audio guide to hear stories from each space. A series of three-sided spaces mock up domestic areas such as a bedroom or living space. Each one represents a different country of origin from where groups of refugees have been forced.

Background audio is also delivered through speakers installed in the space and localised sound effects to enhance the rooms, in one a fire crackles, while in another muffled voices can be heard behind a window. Visual technology is used sparingly but to good effect, such as figures behind a curtain or a stove burning.

The simple lines of the world map that visitors first encounter also weave through this space, depicting religious symbols or stylised graphics of faces and people. In places the graphics are bought to life with simple lighting or visuals delivered by Epson LightScene projectors, and it also includes spots to scan to hear more information.

The calm of ‘Leaving Home?’ that encourages reflection is then totally shattered when walking through a doorway to the next room: ‘The Flight’. Gruelling footage of refugee journeys is shown on multiple displays of different sizes and aspect ratios with some displays ceiling mounted and looking down.

The initial feeling is a cacophony of sound and the range of screen sizes gives the impression of seeing snippets from hard to watch scenes: boats capsizing or violent and dangerous encounters and refugees crossing barbed wire laced borders. The initial feeling is chaos and confusion but the space is cleverly designed so you start to pick out individual and heart-breaking narratives told by refugees who went through terrifying experiences to reach Denmark.

The other clever effect the room delivers is all the screens face one way so while you enter and walk through the museum you are faced with the footage. If you turn back you see objects collected from these journeys: a life jacket or a cart used to escape from the Red Army. Seeing the real-life objects hammers home the fact these are true experiences that humans faced.

“For us the practical challenge was how to get cables around in that structure,” says Stouenborg. “Having so many screens and players there meant you had to get network cables and power integrated to run the experience.”

The fifth area, ‘Safety?’, has a series of interactive elements, objects and sculptures all related to the refugee experience.

A large touch table was created with two Epson EB-L635SU projectors beaming down from above and touch sensors on the table. Content shows newspaper clippings across the table which can be dragged and chosen to open. Scan points for the audio guide allow a topic to be presented if the clipping is chosen. Topics and events that are reported on and discussed in the news are shown. They lay out positions of debate and challenge visitors so think about their view on the topics surrounding how refugees are received. It includes a polling feature so people’s opinions can be shown.

Two small tents that would typically be found in refugee camps are included here. Epson mini projectors installed in the ceiling of each tent beam down to show videos of refugee camps. What hits you viewing the tents is how small they are and how vulnerable inhabitants would be to the elements.

‘Home?’ is the focus of the sixth area that has a series of metal sculptures. In this quiet and reflective area you can sit with or opposite the delicate depictions of people or families and hear their stories through the audio guide. These are all refugees that made lives in Denmark and the tone is more hopeful. The stylistic line drawing continues through this area with Epson projection subtly used to annotate it.

The next space of the main museum, ‘Reflection’, is dominated by a large videowall created with three edge-blended Epson EB-L630SU projectors. A bank of portraits of refugees is seen in the background, with three highlights telling individual stories via the audio guide.

The final area focuses on the roles refugees have taken on in their new countries; from sports stars to company founders, academics and more.

Visitors can then pass back through the modern extension to another of the site’s old hospital buildings. Here a small theatre has been set up. Projection, from an Epson EB-L635SU, at the front of the room shows a video explaining the lives of the refugees that made the camp their home. A further six projectors fire onto the left and right walls to project an audience of inhabitants of the camp to create a feeling that you are watching the performances the refugees used to put on for themselves to entertain the camp’s inhabitants. A Panasonic PressIT wireless presentation system was also provided so the theatre can be used for other events and presentations.

Stouenborg says: “It was a challenge to install seven projectors and project onto three sides of the room. In the small space with limited ceiling height, the audience is very close to the projectors and we had calculate the angle so people don’t block the beams.”

Audio for the presentation is delivered with a combination of the audio guide and surround sound in the room delivered with two Meyer Sound UP-4slim speakers and four Genelec 4020 units.

Stouenborg provided the museum staff with a touchscreen at the front desk where they simply have start and stop commands for the entire exhibition.

“A Brightsign player is built into the touchscreen so control is kept in the Brightsign environment,” says Stouenborg. “We’ve used a Pharos lighting controller to control the lights and power up and down the projectors. We deliberately designed the system to be relatively simple to keep it as stable and robust as possible.”

While the museum connects experiences and events, it also uses contrasts. Light and dark is used to incredible effect both physically in terms of the spaces, but also with negative experiences and then more hopeful stories of people forging new lives.

The overwhelming effect is to humanise the refugee experience. Much of the story is narrated by refugees themselves. With people at the heart of the story it was vital that AV was used so sensitively to enhance but not take over.  

“We installed nearly 50 projectors for this project, which is a lot considering the size of the exhibition but that’s not the effect you walk away with,” says Stouenborg. “In places they simply show the name of the exhibition area. Just because you have the possibility to have things spin around and change colour, you don’t have to do it. Less is most definitely more here.”


Tech Spec


Genelec 4020 loudspeakers
Meyer Sound UP-4slim loudspeakers
Tonwelt audio guide



Epson EB series, EF-11 and LightScene EV-115 projectors
Sony 65-in Bravia FW-65BZ40H screens


Signal distribution and management

Brightsign XT243 and HD224 players
Pharos LPC1 light controller
Ubiquiti USW-Pro-24-POE and US-8 switches, UDM-PRO router and U6-LR Wi-Fi access point

Photos: Nalle Magnusson

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