We recently had the opportunity to visit the Viking exhibit going on at The Utah Natural History Museum.

 

The exhibit Vikings Beyond the Legend incorporates heavy design thinking into the flow of the exhibit and fits in nicely with the rich modern aesthetic of the museum.  

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One of the first messages the curators hit on is refining our understanding of the term Viking. The common perception is that vikings were a type of people, but viking is actually a verb (to go on a viking, to act like a viking, etc). When one went out viking, they went out trading, sailing, raiding, pillaging, etc.  

However, the exhibit’s main goal was to show the entirety of Viking culture. The legend of Vikings as brutal warriors is widespread, but few people know about their society and culture; their ingenuity as seafarers; their impressive farming practices, trade routes, and plundering methods. The exhibit also spends a good deal of time on the old Norse religion and how the rise of Christianity slowly eliminated the traditional Norse gods from day to day worship. However, for a significant amount of time in their history, the two religions existed side by side, as shown by this rune below, which has inscriptions of both.

 

Scandinavia has gained a notoriety for modern edges, sharp lines, and the creators of flat-pack shipping methods (think IKEA), but their superior, clean designs have been infiltrating continents for ages. The curators present objects and texts in display cases that are incorporated with the architecture of the exhibit itself. This allows visitors to wander seamlessly through the intricacies of a bygone society. Inside the exhibit, there is a beautiful display of a disassembled ship with each peg suspended by clearwire, which shows how intricate old Scandinavian designs were and how they were able to have colonies on every continent. Their boats were the fastest and their designs the cleanest.

 

Admission is free for University of Utah students and faculty, or $14 in person. More information can be found at https://nhmu.utah.edu/vikings . The exhibit runs from May 27th, 2017 through the First of the Year.

Hail Ullr – Pray for Snow

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