Institutt for sosialantropologi

Paradoxes of a Modern Viking. A Study of a Living History Museum and Reenactment


Master's thesis submittet at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2016

By: Anna Økstra
Supervisor: Associate Professor Mary Bente Bringslid

This thesis thematises the role of the museum and how it, through hundreds of years, has changed from not only being concerned with material things, but also how immaterial heritage, that which is intangible, emerged in museum history, as it is emphasised by UNESCO’s convention which protected both material and immaterial heritage.

A living history museum or a Viking market are full of paradoxes, both visual and vocalised. The life of a Viking reenactor is concerned with making the past the now and to reenact as authentic as possible. By emerging themselves in historical correctness socially, aesthetically and academically, they travel in time. The thesis considers the dangers that lie within the futile attempts to save history and the past by saving things in a museum or by building monuments. As an alternative, a possible solution to this, it demonstrates how both reenactors and living history museums try to embody the museum item and bring them into the now instead of seeing the items as things from a distant time. In the thesis I also look at how the age of the historical Vikings is romanticised to become an ideal and fetishized time concerned with aesthetic beauty, handicrafts and family values: a functioning democracy with noble moral codes. I discuss how the Viking community has grown out of a modern individualistic idea of collectivism and acceptance of eccentricity. This is a thesis about togetherness, social processes, nerds, authenticity, dreamworlds, timelessness and spacelessness.