Vikings: Beyond the Legend



hotography provided by Cincinnati Museum Center

Even after 1,000 years, the legend of the Viking culture still captures our collective imagination. Yet, there is much we do not know about the Scandinavian people whose name often elicits images of hulking warriors in horned helmets. 

The largest collection of Viking artifacts to visit North America is coming to Cincinnati Museum Center on November 11 in “Vikings: Beyond the Legend.” These renowned treasures – collected and presented by the Swedish History Museum and the National Museum of Denmark – reveal the rich, often-misunderstood culture. 

“It’s a very beautiful exhibition, we worked extremely hard on the design,” says Gunnar Andersson, senior curator of the exhibit from the Swedish History Museum. “Although it is about an era that took place 1,000 years ago, we crafted the exhibition into a modern design that we hope visitors will enjoy.” 

Eight intriguing themes lead visitors on a journey through the compelling stories of the people we came to know as the Vikings. “The first theme is called ‘Meet the Vikings,’ where we show who the Vikings were as a culture,” says Andersson. “They didn’t look upon themselves as Vikings, in fact that is a term and concept we came up with to describe the Scandinavian people of that era.” 

Those stories offer a glimpse into the culture structure, the roles women and men had as well as a large population of people who were enslaved. 

The exhibition vividly demonstrates through textiles, wood, metal, bone, leather, glass and ceramics how skilled the craftspeople were. 

These artifacts – rarely seen outside Scandinavia – present beautiful jewelry, sculptures, household items and religious iconography.

“The objects leave us with quite a lot of stories,” says Andersson. “We see the power of mythology, religion, handicrafts and what life on a farm was like.” 

Myths will also be dispelled, depending on how much a visitor knows about the Vikings. For example, not all Scandinavian people during the Viking era were pagan; Christianity existed and many Vikings identified with the ideology. The earliest known Scandinavian crucifix is on display. 

Hands-on exhibits give visitors the chance to digitally excavate a Viking ship using historically accurate tools, digging layer by layer, uncovering weapons, tools and animals just as archaeologists did. 

More interactive exhibits include testing your strength using an accurate model of a Viking sword, delving into a digital Viking wardrobe and competing in authentic Viking games including “Hnefatafl,” which is similar to chess. 

The largest artifact will have visitors marveling: the Roskilde 6, a 122-foot “long boat” was excavated from the Roskilde Fjord in Denmark in 1997. It is the longest Viking ship ever found and has never been displayed in North America.  

Other ships include the Krampmacken, which is a reconstruction of a 25-foot Viking-age merchant boat found in the 1920s on Gotland Island, Sweden, and “Ghost Ship,” represented in 3D by the boat’s authentic rivets. 

“I’m captivated by the Vikings and have been working on the collection since 2010, finding objects and drawing up the storyboards,” says Andersson. “The people of the Viking era left behind numerous stories and our intrigue will never end.” 

“Vikings: Beyond the Legend” runs November 11-April 23. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.cincymuseum.org. 

Cincinnati Museum Center is located at 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45203. You can reach them at 513.287.7000, by email at information@cincymuseum.org or visit www.cincymuseum.org.