Vikings inspire Stockholm museum chief

Vikings inspire Stockholm museum chief
Visitors to Stockholm will someday be able to take a virtual ride with a boatload of marauding Vikings if the head of the Museum of National Antiquities (Historiskamuseet) has his way.

A life-like boat ride across the Baltic Sea of 1000 years ago is just one of the many the attractions being considered for a new Viking museum to be built adjacent to the National Antiquities museum.

“What we are looking at building is more of an interpretive centre than a traditional museum,” said Lars Amréus, who has headed the museum since 2006, to The Local.

Sweden’s Museum of National Antiquities already has one of the most comprehensive collections of Viking artifacts to be found in any one location.

As a result, it serves as something of a de facto Viking museum for tourists looking to augment their understanding of the famed Nordic explorers.

But Amréus believes the museum could do more to bring the Viking-era back to life for contemporary museum-goers.

“The focus now is really only on the objects themselves,” explained Amréus, who is an archeologist by trade.

“But modern technologies allow us to do things which are much more exciting…we want people to not just be looking, but to be actively doing things as well.”

Besides a virtual Viking boat ride, the proposed interpretive centre will also seek to highlight some of the many encounters the Vikings had with other cultures around the world.

“There are fantastic stories about Vikings coming in contact with other cultures,” said Amréus, who mentioned accounts by the Arab poet Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan of his encounters with the Vikings in the Middle East in the 10th century.

The idea of building a Viking museum has actually been around since the early 1990s, when officials at the National Antiquities museum first looked into the concept. For a number of reasons, however, plans never materialized.

“The importance of cultural tourism wasn’t as widely recognized at the time,” said Amréus.

But things have changed over the years, and interest in a more comprehensive Viking museum never waned. If anything, demand has increased, which caused Amréus and his colleagues to revisit the idea a couple of years ago.

“There is a better appreciation today of the importance of tourists and their economic impact,” he said, adding that he believs the project has a better chance of succeeding this time around.

Amréus stressed however that a timetable for the construction of the centre has yet to be set, explaining that a great deal of work needs to be done in refining and gathering support for the concept.

“The next step is to get the right partners involved, like the government, the city, and the business community,” he said.

“Getting everyone on board will help make it happen and make it good.”

Amréus has already started discussions with the National Building’s Administration (Statens Fastighetsverket) about acquiring the necessary permits for building on the proposed site, a plot of land near the front entrance of the current museum.

“It’s a very long process,” he said, adding that it would be “a number of years” before the proposed Viking museum became a reality.

Planners have drawn inspiration for the interpretive centre concept from several museums in the United States, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois, and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

“I like what they’ve done with new technologies in terms of reconstructing authentic environments using 3D imaging,” said Amréus.

“Those types of exhibitions are extremely exciting.”

And American museums aren’t the only things Amréus is considering for the Viking centre.

As an avid fan of the Minnesota Vikings American football team, Amréus is also open to exploring possible relationships with the club.

“I would love to find a way to work with them. That would be really fun,” he said.