The real Viking Age

Vikings exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum

Photo: Arthur Andersen  The poster for the Vikings exhibit currently on display in Chicago.

Photo: Arthur Andersen
The poster for the Vikings exhibit currently on display in Chicago.

Nancy Andersen
Chicago

Does the term Viking conjure up visions in your mind of fearsome raiders with horned helmets? The Vikings exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum aims to improve your understanding and give a hands-on learning experience to all ages.

Most people in the Viking age were actually farmers, traders, or craftspeople, and the term Viking was only applied to a trading ship or a raid. And as you probably know, there never were horns on Viking helmets: this was a fanciful idea created relatively recently. The exhibit features evocative displays with many artifacts to show a total picture of life in the Viking era. A replica of a small Viking ship from Sweden is also featured.

Photo: Arthur Andersen  A Viking ship that's a part of the collection.

Photo: Arthur Andersen
A Viking ship that’s a part of the collection.

On March 18 the Vikings exhibit at the Field Museum was officially opened with an evening event called “Passport to Scandinavia.” Many Scandinavian organizations in the Chicago area were invited to participate. People who came to the opening event were treated to a buffet of tasty Scandinavian treats, and an array of interesting displays that showed some of the treasure of the Midwest and Chicago area’s rich Scandinavian heritage, besides a curated visit to the Vikings exhibit.

Some of the groups exhibiting were the Norwegian National League, Vesterheim National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center of Decorah, Iowa, Friends of the Viking Ship (seeking to preserve and properly display the replica of the Gokstad ship that was sailed from Norway to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago), Illinois Norsk Rosemalers Association, Chicago’s Swedish American Museum, Micel Folcland demonstrating living history of the Viking period, and Sons of Norway Polar Star Lodge 5-472. There were even Vikings in chain mail and helmets with shields. Guests were treated to entertainment by the Norland Band, a Swedish choral group, and a colorful show by the Nordic Folk Dancers of Chicago.

Photo: Arthur Andersen  The exhibit’s official opening in March featured costumed reenactors (shown here about to be mauled by a skeletal dinosaur—which probably isn’t historically accurate).

Photo: Arthur Andersen
The exhibit’s official opening in March featured costumed reenactors (shown here about to be mauled by a skeletal dinosaur—which probably isn’t historically accurate).

The Vikings exhibit at the Field Museum is open daily through October 4, 2015, and is really worth a trip.

Visit fieldmuseum.org for prices and to purchase tickets.

This article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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