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'Vikings' Sail Into Field Museum This Friday

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 26, 2015 4:00PM

The Field Museum is now in the business of mythbusting. Their ongoing Vodou exhibit took on the common misconceptions of the practice and tried to help people understand it as something more than spooky dolls and black magic. Now, in coordination with the Swedish History Museum, they’re taking on Vikings and separating fact from fiction.

This exhibit aims to look at this group differently, seeking to understand the lifestyle of the people through the artifacts they left behind instead of through the lens of other cultures' historical recollections. In talking with Bj√∂rn Lyrvall, the Ambassador of Sweden in the U.S., we learned that Vikings were more than the fierce invaders and warriors portrayed in historical accounts—they were “traders, discoverers, explorers and innovators,” and in fact, Lyrvall says, still very representative of Swedish people today. The exhibit also takes the time to explore the role of women in Viking culture through their textile work, their importance as masters of the home and in some cases their land ownership.

Vikings reflects a very modern Swedish aesthetic, with a modular, sleek feel, flowing nicely from room to room with a great mix of interactive displays and beautiful art pieces. We especially loved the “ghost ship,” built of suspended rivets and ship pieces, which seemed like it would fit just as well at an art gallery as it does in the Field Museum.

Vikings boasts 500 original artifacts from the Viking era (roughly 750-1100 A.D.) highlighting the craftsmanship and mythology of the people, including beautiful metal and glass work and several replica ships. The most impressive of the replicas, a 20-foot, 1,800 lb. vessel, required a 90-ton crane and the removal of the Field Museum doors just to get to its spot at the entrance of the exhibit.

Vikings is a superb look at a culture through the lenses of archaeology and anthropology that takes us beyond the boats and into the daily lives of the Scandinavian people of the time. It takes the horns off the helmets (except, for some reason, in the gift shop, where they seem to have missed the news of that myth being busted) and shows us a much more layered, artistic and relatable people.

Vikings opens at the Field Museum this Friday, Feb. 27 and runs through Oct. 4. Although the Field Museum is still offering free admission through the end of February, you will need a special ticket to go on this journey.