There are news conferences, and then there are news conferences taking place in front of a replica ship while a man in full Viking regalia reads an epic poem about bloody battles and webs being woven out of human entrails.
The Carnegie Science Center pulled out all the stops Thursday while unveiling its newest exhibition, “Vikings: Warriors of the North Sea.” This expansive look into the world and culture of a Scandinavian warrior society that thrived more than 1,000 years ago features more than 140 artifacts and opens to the public Saturday. It will run through Sept. 4.
“Vikings dominate pop culture today, but they are often misrepresented and misunderstood,” Jason Brown, the Science Center’s director and vice president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, said in his remarks. “We hope this exhibition shares the true nature of the Scandinavians we know as Vikings.”
The Science Center partnered with the National Museum of Denmark, MuseumsPartner in Austria, and Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History on “Vikings: Warriors of the North Sea.” It also received the blessing of Ubisoft Montréal to include footage from its 2020 Vikings-centric game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in the exhibit.
Museumgoers will twist their way through a winding room and learn about the tools Viking merchants employed, weapons their warriors wielded, Norse gods, Viking art, what daily household work and leisure time looked like, the leadership structure of Viking society and more.
The only exhibit pieces not available at Thursday’s media gathering were an augmented reality experience allowing patrons to speak with a Norseman and a dress-like-a-Viking station, according to Brown.
Thursday’s news conference kicked off with a bang when Youngstown, Ohio-based actor Tom Kusiowski — decked from head to toe in war paint, furs and other era-appropriate Viking garb — performed a stirring rendition of the (quite graphic) Norse poem “The Song of the Valkyries.”
As a history buff with a particular affinity for Vikings, Kusiowski thinks it’s “just amazing what they’ve put together here” for this exhibit.
“It’s fantastic to be able to see an anthropological take on something from the Science Center,” he told the Union Progress. “The fact that we can find this here makes me very happy.”
Also on hand Thursday was Peter Pentz, curator of the National Museum of Denmark, which provided many of the artifacts found in “Vikings: Warriors of the North Sea.” He is very aware of how Vikings have been portrayed in the media over the past decade in everything from the History Channel series “Vikings” to the 2022 Robert Eggers film “The Northman” to Chris Hemsworth’s Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Thor.
Pentz said like those other representations, the Science Center exhibition has the potential to “get Vikings into people’s minds” and hopefully inspire them to seek out more information so they can “get a different view [on Vikings] than the stereotypical one.”
He also believes “Vikings: The Warriors of the North Sea” has a contemporary value in providing Pittsburghers with a crash course on gaining greater understandings of cultures they may not have been previously familiar with.
“There are people today, we do not understand why they are acting like they are,” Pentz said. “Understanding other people is not just a question of geography. It’s also a question of time. You may learn from people who lived like these people a millennium ago.”