Mystic Seaport's celebration of Viking culture draws huge crowds

Members of Flock Theatre perform 'Viking Fact or Fiction' during Viking Days on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at the Mystic Seaport Museum. The weekend event celebrated Nordic culture with trade demonstrations, performances, and on-the-water activities.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Members of Flock Theatre perform "Viking Fact or Fiction" during Viking Days on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at the Mystic Seaport Museum. The weekend event celebrated Nordic culture with trade demonstrations, performances, and on-the-water activities. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Mystic — With a stunning reproduction of a large Viking longship and enough helmets and mead to make Ragnar Lodbrok proud, visitors to Mystic Seaport Museum this past weekend were treated to a celebration of Viking culture.

Hundreds of people from across New England descended on the museum to experience the museum's "Viking Days," a program held Saturday and Sunday that featured model longships, a Viking encampment, Fjord horses, live performances and other activities. 

"Viking Days" coincided with two new exhibitions that opened at the museum in May, the first a collection of early Viking-age artifacts from Uppsala University in Sweden and the second on the hotly-debated Vinland map, a controversial parchment map that emerged in 1965 and suggested Norse knowledge of the New World prior to Columbus.

"We always try to come up with great programming and events to go with the exhibitions we put together," said museum spokesman Dan McFadden. "We're really looking forward to Viking Days being an example of what we can do to combine indoor exhibition with outdoor programming."

If Saturday and Sunday were any indication, that combination of indoor exhibition and outdoor programming can make quite the spectacle.

Visitors who journeyed to the Seaport found themselves immersed in all things Vikings such as playing the traditional Swedish game of Kuub, mead brewing and building a model longship. 

"This is the stuff I like," said Brandon Hester of Groton, who's family came to the museum as part of a Father's Day gift from his wife. "It's more of the historical things than say a Renaissance Faire where they all just dress up and act the part."

"It's actually more learning," he continued.

Although he had already read about several of the things included in the exhibitions, Hester said it was cool getting to actually see the artifacts. He added that the informative and interactive nature of the event also set the event apart, saying its rare that one gets a chance to be on a Viking Longboat.

And for other self-confessed "Viking nerds" the exhibitions and surrounding activities did not disappoint either.

"I think it's great that they're having it, and the map in particular, because this gets the word out and gets more people excited and interested," said Carol Anderson Perry, who came to the museum along with her family who all are very interested in Viking history and have seen exhibitions in the U.S. and Sweden.

Perry added that the days' activities and parts of the exhibition highlighting things such as religion also offered a great way to show people Viking culture outside of just the typical things they might see on television or in the movies.

"I loved seeing the artifacts from Uppsala," said Pam Jackson, Perry's daughter-in- law. Jackson added that the designs and patterns of some of the artifacts offered a cool way to see how far the Vikings journeyed, as well as the way Viking influence crossed over into other places such as Ireland.

Jackson added that it was also great to see just how engaged people were in learning about the Vikings.

"I think people are curious about it, you see how popular that "Vikings" show is on History Channel and people are so into it," said Pam Jackson. "I think it is just the fascination with how all that happened way back before recorded history."

Niccolai Kerner, 12, of Rhode Island, pushes a shield back where it belongs during a tour of the Draken Harald Harfagre during Viking Days on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at the Mystic Seaport Museum. The weekend event celebrated Nordic culture with trade demonstrations, performances, and on-the-water activities.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Niccolai Kerner, 12, of Rhode Island, pushes a shield back where it belongs during a tour of the Draken Harald Harfagre during Viking Days on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at the Mystic Seaport Museum. The weekend event celebrated Nordic culture with trade demonstrations, performances, and on-the-water activities. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Crew member Anna Baybakova leads a tour of the Draken Harald Harfagre during Viking Days on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at the Mystic Seaport Museum. The weekend event celebrated Nordic culture with trade demonstrations, performances, and on-the-water activities.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Crew member Anna Baybakova leads a tour of the Draken Harald Harfagre during Viking Days on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at the Mystic Seaport Museum. The weekend event celebrated Nordic culture with trade demonstrations, performances, and on-the-water activities. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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