The Viking Museum in Stockholm (est. 2017) is a good first contact with this period in Scandinavian history. There aren’t many original objects, you hardly see a single name of a find spot or a date within the period. But you do get to see a lot of good replicas of objects and environments, parts of which are as always highly conjectural. And there is a lot of high-quality signage to read, videos to watch, guided tours by highly trained presenters to follow, and there’s a visually arresting narrative theme park ride on the ground floor. A neophyte who spends two hours at the Viking Museum will have fun and learn a lot. You get your money’s worth and more.
I’ve been working professionally off and on with the period for 30 years. I am definitely not the target demographic. Still, I’d like to comment on the main thing that made me go “WTF!?”. The theme park ride: it centres on a narrative conflict that I believe almost all Viking Period scholars would identify as wildly ahistorical.
An affluent couple owns a manorial farm that has come down to the wife by inheritance. The husband suffers from alcoholism. This for some reason means that they have to either marry their daughter off to an older man or get a large sum in silver together in order to keep the farm. How did that happen? Does the scriptwriter believe that there was a banking system with mortgage credit in AD 960s Sweden? This is straight out of a 19th century novel about the demise of the landed nobility!
So how can these people get the silver? Couldn’t they sell one of their other farms? No, the only way is to organise a trading expedition on the rivers of Eastern Europe, selling commodities borrowed from the wife’s cousin. It is going to take two years.
The expedition runs into various trouble but is ultimately successful in bringing home the silver. In the middle of it, though, we get a ridiculously melodramatic little scene where the wife and daughter are lying around their giant mead hall starving and calling out for Papa to save them!? On a major agricultural property!? Does the scriptwriter believe that food was bought with silver at a market in AD 960s Sweden? Does s/he believe that agriculture went on indefinite hold when your husband travelled abroad?
All in all though I was prepared for a much weaker overall production. If you’re in Stockholm, you’ve already seen the warship Vasa and taken a boat ride out into the archipelago, and you’d like to learn a bit about those Vikings you’ve heard of, then definitely come here.
But if you already know stuff, then head up to the Swedish History Museum instead. They’ve got 2,500 original objects on display only in the Viking Period section. You’ll find me in the library on Wednesday afternoons.
2 thoughts on “The Stockholm Viking Museum”
After 30 years of waving our hands and saying “hey fiction writers and artists, here are things you could use to create things which are cooler and more plausible!” and being mostly ignored, a lot of us are thinking “maybe scholars need to create our own fiction and visual art inspired by the past.” The problem is that if you have invested in one very uncertain, demanding, poorly paid career such as research, its hard to justify investing in another like writing fiction or painting or drawing!
That sounds pretty awful. That sounds like something a Disney wannabe would come up with.
There’s a recently opened Nordic museum in Ballard, a neighborhood of Seattle where a lot of Nordic immigrants settled. It started out as a small storefront with a small exhibit about Nordic immigration, but then they got serious funding and built a nicely sized museum covering much of a city block. We’ve only popped in briefly, but it has the long ships, historical doorways, recreated – presumably – houses and a variety of artifacts. We have no idea of how many are authentic versus replicas. They also have exhibits by and about Nordic artists. There’s one there about Alvar Aalto right now. There’s also a long ship out back for class tours. We’ve walked by a few times and it was full of schoolkids.
LikeLiked by 1 person