Vikings at the Canadian Museum of History
I am a Viking!
Part of my family comes from Northern England and Southern Scotland. I, my brother and my kids all have blonde hair and I carry a battle axe in my work bag for resolution of any conflicts I encounter during the day.
There is a great Viking exhibit currently travelling the world on a ten-city tour. It was developed by The Swedish History Museum in partnership with MuseumsPartner in Australia and until April 17, 2016 it is in Ottawa at the Canadian Museum of History.
The Museum recently provided my family and I with tickets to see the exhibit and since I am pretty sure I am partially descended from these Norse peoples I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk with my girls about their warrior ancestors.
One of the things that was interesting to me was the distinction between Vikings and Norsemen. The Vikings were the raiders, traders and colonizers. The ordinary people who lived as farmers, craftspeople or slaves were referred to as Norsemen.
This exhibit was fascinating to me on many levels, in part due to what it did not cover. My perception of Vikings has long been shaped by my personal family history as a family from Britain. I always think of the Vikings as groups of people who succeeded in taking over large parts of what is now England and Scotland. They were the people who invaded the British Isles (including Ireland) in the centuries after the Romans left. They were the people who were pushed back by Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and first king of the Anglo-Saxons. Arguably Alfred was the first King of a consolidated England. None of this was covered by the exhibit. It focuses primarily on the life of the Vikings and Norsemen who lived in Scandinavia.
The Norse people were very clearly talented craftspeople. The exhibit provides numerous examples of the art and decorative pieces produced during this period of time. They range from impressive jewelry and religious pieces to rune stones used to provide information and tell stories.
Viking Home Life
The exhibit also covers the home life (and death) of the Vikings and Norse people. Everything from cooking to ice skating and death rituals is covered.
If you thought Iron Chef or Hell’s Kitchen was a tough cooking environment imagine competing with Viking chefs!
Have you ever tried ice skating on dull skates? Dull bone skates might be a little more challenging.
Vikings shifted from pagan societies to ones that were predominantly Christian and their burial rites changed from cremation and urns as seen above to full body burials.
All that you can’t leave behind. Hoards of coins and jewelry from the viking period continue to be found across Scandinavia and other places they colonized.
Vikings for Kids
This is a detailed exhibit with almost 500 artifacts. I found it fascinating and I wanted to read about every item. My kids (9, 7 and 2) were not as fascinated. My nine year old loves to read and learn so she was right there with me and wanted to know about every item. We made it through about 1/4 of the exhibit before my seven year old found us and took us over to the replica sword that was available for testing. She would undoubtedly have made a fine viking warrior in her time. We bounced around the exhibit after that for a while before the kids decided they wanted to check out the children’s museum. I was able to stick around a little longer and look at more of the exhibit myself.
The exhibit is organized in such a way that it is easy to move from section to section without having to follow a specific narrative. Each piece and section stands well on their own if you are being pulled along by a younger child. For kids who are interested in history or generally in learning new information, it is worth taking them to this exhibit. If your kids are more hands on and interested in activities, this is not the exhibit for them.The Vikings exhibit is at the Canadian Museum of History until April 17, 2016 - Check it out!Click To Tweet