Karin built a new exhibition at the castle

Karin Mellbo

Karin Mellbo works at Kalmar Castle and is both an archaeologist and historian but also good at crafts.

In 2021, a new exhibition opened at Kalmar Castle. We have spoken to exhibition producer Karin Mellbo.

Karin Mellbo grew up in a family with a keen interest in culture, where all family members have their own artistic skills, each in their separate way. Karin is a passionate crafter, an interest she shares with her husband.

– We are both very devoted to learning old crafting techniques. It is important that they are not forgotten. We have a smithy and workshop at home, which is a great advantage in our projects. Whenever we want to change something at home, we always assume that we will do it ourselves. That way, we can ensure things turn out exactly the way we want, she says.

When did you start working at Kalmar Castle?

I started in 2006 as a guide, shop assistant and guard. I am an archaeologist and historian, so at the outset, my historical knowledge was the main focus.

– After a while, I started working with exhibitions to an increasing extent, and my employer found out that I have various crafting skills; over time, I have spent more and more time working with crafts, carpentry, sculpture, and dress. Today, I am in charge of the wardrobe and collections at the castle. I also do a lot of work in connection with the exhibitions, and with the development of new concepts.

To first get to go full nerd about the historical facts, and then find ways to bring these facts to the visitors, that's amazing.

Karin Mellbo

What will visitors see in the exhibition?

– They are invited to a kitchen, the way it looked when John III visited Kalmar Castle in 1585−1586. He brought with him his new wife, Gunilla Bielke, Prince Sigismund and Princess Anna, as well as his retinue of about 400 people. They stayed for several months, and were here to inspect, among other things, the major reconstructions John had ordered at the castle.

– During their stay, they held the grand Easter banquet that is laid out in the Grey Hall. This was just one of many splendid meals cooked in the royal kitchen. The exhibition shows a Renaissance kitchen during the preparation of one of all these feasts.

What is the work process like?

– Last winter, I started reading up on the subject, that is, 16th century kitchens. There is just so much to learn, so many facts, and it’s really important to find dependable sources to learn what the castle kitchen may have looked like, and what ingredients and tools were used.

– After a while, I realized that the kitchen was truly the heart of the castle in those days. It was very busy and crowded, and the food needed not only taste good, but had to look attractive, too.

– I started sketching a plan for what the kitchen might have looked like, and then there was all the work to produce the various items included. More or less everything had to be made from scratch, so my work involves a great deal of carpentry. You can’t really find any ready-made tables, cabinets and kitchen implements that look the way they did in the 16th century.

You are in charge of the wardrobe at the castle, too. How are these lovely costumes produced?

– Here, too, it is vital to be familiar with the historical sources, and capture the particular fashion of the 16th century. The clothes of both men and women were really beautiful, both the dress of the “common folk” and the magnificent royal outfits. When you put these clothes on, you enter a sort of role, and tend to maintain a very nice posture.

– Of course, it is important that the people who are to wear the clothes feel good about them, even if they might be a tad less comfortable than our modern clothes. The design and cut of the clothes may vary a bit, so the wearer can often be involved in the choice of colour or style.

Karin makes the beautiful costumes worn by the castle staff.

What’s the best thing about your job?

– There are so many amazing things involved, that I have a really hard time choosing. No two days are the same, and I get to combine my creativity with history.

– To first get to go full nerd about the historical facts, and then find ways to bring these facts to the visitors, so they can both learn more about the castle and get a sense of history, that is really amazing. At that, I have fantastic co-workers – and the most beautiful workplace imaginable.

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Page published by: Destination Kalmar