Oslo: The Viking Ship Museum and the Historical Museum

The other museum on Museum Peninsula (properly called Bygdøy) that was keeping me from my much-needed dinner was the Viking Ship Museum (actually, there are even more museums on the peninsula, including the Maritime Museum, but three ship museums was probably enough for one day). To be honest, I wasn’t that bothered about seeing the Viking Ship Museum, having already seen Vikingeskibsmuseet in Roskilde, and not being super interested in the Vikings at the best of times, and certainly not when I was tired, hangry, and pissed off about missing lefse, but Marcus wanted to see it, and I thought we might as well go when we were already on Museum Peninsula rather than having to make a special trip back.

 

Admission to the museum is 100 kr (or free with the Oslo Pass), and includes a ticket to the Historical Museum that is valid for 48 hours (confusingly, both the Viking Ship Museum and the Historical Museum are run by the Cultural History Museum, which is apparently not the same thing as the Norwegian Cultural History Museum, aka the Folkemuseum). Like almost every museum in Oslo, the Viking Ship Museum will eventually be moving to a new site, but that isn’t happening until 2025, and the museum is still fully open at its current site. It looks like the new museum will try to give a comprehensive history of the Viking Age, whilst the current museum is pretty much just about the ships. And despite the singular in the name, it is ships plural – three of them.

 

I was so past being done at this point that I basically walked around all the ships, and then sat down whilst Marcus took photos (as seen above). Other than the ships, the museum had some Viking artefacts in it, and it looked nicely laid out and labelled in English, albeit not terribly interactive. Although the ships here are in a much better state of preservation than the ones in Roskilde, Roskilde’s Vikingeskibsmuseet was definitely more fun, what with the dressing up and ship rides on offer. Since I only gave Roskilde 2.5/5, the Viking Ship Museum will have to be 2/5.

  

We also went (on a different day, thankfully!) to the Historical Museum, which is (you guessed it!) currently undergoing renovations (as you might be able to tell from the false façade stuck on the front), so only a small portion is currently open to the public. This included a temporary exhibition called “Collapse: Human Beings in an Unpredictable World,” a gallery on the Sami, and another on the Vikings, called VIKINGR.  From its name, I assumed “Collapse” would be mainly about climate change and ecological collapse, and there was some of that, but it seemed more like a general ethnographic exhibit, with a lot of artefacts from Oceania.

 

The Sami gallery was interesting, but fairly similar to what we’d seen at the Folkemuseum. At least everything here had an English translation, unlike the other ethnographic gallery about the native peoples of the Americas. However, I could see this sort of thing any time at the British Museum, so I wasn’t all that put out by not being able to read it.

 

Finally, there was VIKINGR, which was clearly redone relatively recently, and had a rather spartan feel, with loads of plain glass cases stuck in the middle of a somewhat bare room. The Cultural History Museum is known for having the only intact Viking helmet in the world, as seen above, which I guess is cool, but it’s just a helmet much like other helmets I’ve seen. The rest of the exhibition mainly consisted of swords and jewellery, with a skull or two thrown in. Eventually, this collection will be moved over to the new Viking Age Museum along with the Viking ships, which is perhaps why they didn’t appear to have spent much money doing up the space it’s in now.

 

In conjunction with VIKINGR, there was a small display of contemporary art inspired by the Vikings, primarily using the theme of migration (not so much the raping and pillaging). This was probably the most enjoyable part of the museum for me – I really liked all those silhouetted heads (sil-you-ette, as Bert the chimney sweep would say), which you were encouraged to move back and forth by their wooden dowels. There was also a collage, and the mysterious upside-down “Visas and Green Cards” neon sign (there was definitely more of an explanation on the label, but I can’t remember what it was).

 

I would not have paid to see this museum in its current, much downgraded state (the building is clearly huge and gorgeous, but only a fraction of it is currently being utilised due to the renovations), but it was free with the Oslo Pass and included with the Viking Ship Museum ticket, and it helped us to escape a torrential downpour (and had lockers to put our bags in, since we were headed to the bus station immediately after. Yes, bus. The train lines to Gothenburg were all down, so we had the fun of a four hour bus ride there instead. Not ideal for someone who gets motion sickness as badly as I do, since all I could do was stare out the window trying not to puke. In retrospect, we probably should have researched this trip better). 1.5/5 in its current state. By the way, please don’t think this is the end of Oslo – I’m skipping around a bit because both these museums had a Viking theme, so it made sense to combine them – there’s still lots more to come!

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13 comments

      1. It happens! I suppose that if I’m already there, I do normally make the effort to at least slog through, however unenthusiastically, or I just don’t blog about it so no one knows I crapped out.

  1. We visited that museum and were a bit disappointed, lots of other places were so much better. Hope the bus trip wasn’t too horrendous and tat the weather improved. You never know with Norway do you?

    1. There’s loads to see in Oslo, but it might be better to wait a few years until all these new museums open (these aren’t the only ones under construction)! That said, we still managed to find plenty to do even with all the closings.

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