“Vikings: Beyond the Legend” exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science opened March 10th, 2017. It is a joint venture between the Swedish History Museum in Sweden and Museums Partner in Austria.
I always thought a viking was a person, however a viking can also be an activity. For example, a journey for commercial purposes or as a raid. Sometimes even women or children are on a viking.
One interesting part of the exhibit was how they dealt with the afterlife. For example, when they buried some of their dead with spikes on their shoes so that they can climb up an icy road to ‘Hel’ (not what we usually think of when we think of Hell). They also sometimes pushed the dead body out to sea on a boat and set it on fire.
They have several historical reenactors in the exhibit – a cast of 7 that rotate. They spent approximately 6 months preparing for their roles! Main components that they focused on include accents, affection, and expressions. Having statements that are appropriate to the time are an important part of the experience. They worked with experts at DU Nordic Studies, conducted weekly studies, and made costumes that are all hand stitched.
I interviewed a historical reenactor named “Einarr Shield-breaker”. He got his name as a child from his habit of breaking his brother’s shields. He carries an axe that he sharpens with soft stone. The axe is versatile because you can use it for climbing walls, cutting wood, or cutting your opponent’s body. He started training for vikings at around the age of 7, but he did not take his first viking until he was closer to age 12-14. He carried a heavy wooden shield.
The exhibit also has examples of viking writing, and you could spell your own name with the tiles. Many artifacts were on display that were dug up on digs. They had a viking ship suspended from the air which was really cool because they removed all of the wood so you could see the shape and all of the iron nails that were needed to make the ship.
Carts have replicas of things like old locks, belt buckles, spoons, knives, combs made out of bone, cups, sewing needles, etc. that are exactly like the originals. Kids can touch these and feel how they worked. The fjellbrog Vikings Group helped create these replicas.
This is a travelling exhibit and has extended hours (to 7pm) during spring break March 26th – April 1st. I recommend this exhibit for all ages since there are interactive stations throughout the museum.