Tag Archive | museum

The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

Photo of Viking Ship Museum entrance in the snow

It started with the Gokstad ship

I read about the Gokstad ship when very young and was fascinated. The survival of so much of the original and the items buried with it caught my imagination. Since then I have read about the Viking age, as it now referred to, at university and then for pleasure. But this ship kept it’s grip on my imagination.
 
I suspect the ship scenes in the film the Vikings starring Kirk Douglas may also have influenced me.
 

Visiting the Viking Ship Museum

On a snowy morning in November I caught the bus to the museum. With snow falling it felt most atmospheric walking up to the doors. The museum is cruciform with each ship filling an arm of the cross. The third arm houses the objects.
 
The first ship is the Oseberg ship and is magnificent. I’ve seen the remains of longships before but not an almost intact one. Before my visit I discussed Viking ship remains with a Danish colleague. We agreed that now restoration as done on these ships is no longer part of museum practice. The restored Oseberg ship does make an impact and is over 90% original.
 
Photo of the prow of the Oseberg ship

Prow of the Oseberg ship

The Gokstad ship

My next port of call was the Gokstad ship and I was very excited to see it. Did it live up to expectations after 45 years? Yes, it did!
 
Walking around the ship and seeing some of the objects from it felt a real treat. One of the features of the museum is the small viewing platforms in each ship gallery. These let you see into the ship from above. All the ships were sailing vessels before becoming burial vessels. So you get a good idea of the space available on them.
Photo of the Gokstad ship from above

The Gokstad ship seen from above

 
The 64 shields from the Gokstad ship are not on display. This disappointed me because I enjoy painting model Vikings with their shields. In contrast some of the peacock feathers from the grave are on display.
 
Seeing the burial chamber and small boats made up for the shields though. The burial chamber had a large hole made by tomb robbers. The two small boats were complete.
Photo of the Gokstad ship burial chamber and small boat

Gokstad ship burial chamber and small boat

 

The Tune ship

The Tune ship is in poor condition because it’s excavation in 1867 saw items lost and damaged. Given there is not much left of the ship a film about the Vikings plays in this room.
 
I liked the way the film uses the shape of the gallery. The main focus is the arched end wall but the side walls display supplementary scenes. 
Photo of the film playing in the museum

Film playing in the museum

The objects and textile gallery

The remaining gallery contains the object found in the ships including textiles. Seeing a lot of objects from one source for this period was a treat. The amount of carved and applied decoration was astounding.
 
Most objects were very ornate, such as the horse drawn sleds, and spoke of wealth. Other objects like buckets, tools and loom weights were more everyday items. It was good to see the more everyday objects that most people would use alongside the richer items.
 
The decorated wagon was not an everyday object. The richness of decoration on is wonderful. I spent some time following the patterns and noticing small parts I had seen in photos in the past. The sleds also have rich ornamentation but replacement runners imply regular use.
 
The textiles recovered from the graves were remarkable. Patterns and in some cases colour is visible. Another film gave an insight to how the cloth could have looked.
Photo of a detail of a sled ornament

Detail of a sled ornament

The museum shop and cafe

I enjoyed the shop’s mix of expensive things and cheaper traditional museum souvenirs. No prizes for guessing which I got! Luckily there wasn’t a model of the Gokstad ship so my wallet was safe. The cafe is outside the museum and has a very appropriate name as the photo shows.
Photo of the museum cafe

Viking Ship Museum cafe

And there’s more

The museum website has accounts of each ship’s excavation and finds. It also discusses the burials at each site and the need for continuing conservation work.
Photo of the 3D scanning to help plan conservation

3D scanning to help plan conservation

 

Advertisements

Henry Lamb at Salisbury Museum – art , literature and war

Henry Lamb sign at Salisbury Museum

I knew of Henry Lamb’s work only though his portrait of Evelyn Waugh. On seeing this exhibition at Salisbury Museum I realised I had seen some of his Second World War paintings of Canadians before. So this exhibition was a great chance to see more of his work and find out more about the artist.

The exhibition at Salisbury Museum

The museum itself is close to the cathedral and the staff are very welcoming. It is paid admision so be prepared for that.

The exhibition covered the artist’s life from start to finish with plenty of work from each phase. As well as finished work sketches were included. In the war artist section this showed how he made colour notes on sketches. These informed the finished work which was also on display. I thought this was a lovely bit of curation.

Some of the highlights were seeing major works alongside family portraits. Also the quotes from others and his relationships as a young artist. He was legendarily good looking, so there was plenty to read about! The portraits of his family and children were a contrast to the earlier and war work. Again seeing a body of his work on his family made the exhibition worthwhile.

The permanent displays

We had a good look around the rest of the museum. The archaeology galleries are very well laid out and plenty of objects to discover in cupboards and drawers. Seeing familiar objects from photographs in context with related finds is always interesting.

From the very contemporary archaeology galleries the costume display is very much traditional regional museum in feel. We both liked this mix of new and old in presentation though. The costume collection is impressively varied and naturally has local connections. The reconstructed doctor’s surgery is a reminder of how tough things were before the NHS.

If you’re in Salisbury I’d recommend a visit to the museum. And they have their own cafe.

How museums get new objects

New artefacts for old?

Something I’m regularly asked when people find I work in a museum is “how do museums get new objects”?. The answer probably is that it varies. Where there’s a collecting policy the process is transparent but otherwise an enigma inside a mystery.

On visiting the National Army Museum in Stockholm in early September 2017 I saw their exhibition dedicated to explaining this mystery.

How museums get new objects – the exhibition

The Army Museum’s exhibition was in their temporary exhibition space on the ground floor. I liked the focus on objects for visitors to reflect on and practical examples. Also the emphasis on who made decisions.

Exhibition sign saying who made decisions

A key part of the exhibition was an infographic showing the path an object follows to join the collection. Unfortunately this was in a shadow so whilst legible in the museum didn’t photograph well. This was supported by another display explaining who makes the decisions.

Flow chart of accessioning object

This display was very honest about the influence of individuals and groups on collecting policy. It stated that in the museum’s early days former soldiers were making the decisions but now it’s mainly highly educated middle class people.

Display showing who makes decisions

An object that didn’t get in

An example of new objects was based around items used by an officer in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Most items were conserved ready to go into the collection. One item was not and this was the shipping crate the officer had lived in. Why was it rejected? Because it wasn’t the actual container the officer used but one the shipping company sent. So a good example of an object being rejected because of a lack of direct association with the museum’s purpose and lacking heritage authenticity.

Sutton Hoo display at the British Museum

Display case with helmets and shield

Ship burial from Sutton Hoo redisplayed

The Sutton Hoo ship burial and the dark ages artefacts found there have fascinated many of us from first sight. The full face helmet alone is an amazing object in its own right.  The other treasures create an impression of wealth not normally associated with the popular idea of the Anglo-Saxons in the dark ages.

Three silver plates from the Mediterranean

Silver plates from the Mediterranean

The recent redisplay of the Sutton Hoo discoveries at the British Museum shows the objects familiar to frequent visitors in a new setting and with new interpretation. What I liked most about the redisplay was the context given to the finds. The display case is long and tall with the outline of a ship in white. The photo shows this is faint but helps remind visitors that the objects come from a ship grave. This is underlined by the simple labels showing whereabouts in the ship the objects were found.

Sutton Hoo display case

Centre of the new Sutton Hoo display case

Interpretation panel showing the ship

Panel showing where objects were in the ship

Recreated objects and interpretation

A big change in this display is the number of modern recreations of objects displayed alongside the originals. I liked this approach because it helps the non-specialist understand what the original looked like and can help see how it was used. For example the modern versions of the cauldron and chain make it clear the size of the object and it’s use. Not least the length of the chain shows it was hung from a high support. I also liked the way the modern versions were clearly marked to avoid confusion.

Cauldron and chain display

Modern cauldron and chain beside original chain

Inevitably the modern helmet attracted most attention while I was in the gallery. Having it displayed by the original allows a compare and contrast the two. Plus it shows how much the Anglo-Saxons liked to create an impression with polished metal objects.

Modern version of the helmet

Modern reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo helmet

The reconstructed helmet has more detailed interpretation than I expected. It highlights the pagan horned dancing figures similar to other pagan depictions. It also points out the similarity to Roman cavalry tombstones that show a Roman (or auxiliary) riding down a barbarian.

Dancing figures on a helmet panel

Dancing figures on the modern helmet

Helmet panel with Roman style horseman

Modern helmet panel showing horseman riding down an enemy

The shield was a reconstruction to provide a display for the original shield fittings and this is essentially unchanged. It has a modern and an original sword below it. Seeing the modern sword in pristine condition helps the visitor imagine the impact visually and physically of this finely made weapons.

Shield and swords display

Modern shield with original fittings and modern and original swords

Sutton Hoo and the Anglo-Saxons

What does this splendid display tell us about the Anglo-Saxons and their world? It makes clear the wealth that an individual could command. From gold metalwork and red garnet fittings on the pouch cover to the workmanship of the helmet’s decorated panel and ridge it shows the love of bling and display. Identifying where objects come from gives an insight into the wider world of the time. Clear links between East Anglia and East Sweden are seen along with silver plate from the Mediterranean (more dark ages bling!).

The discovery is significant enough to feature in the name of Room 41 at the British Museum. Room 41 is now the Sutton Hoo and Europe, AD 300-1100 gallery.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: