It’s a sad day. I thought everyone was just jumping on the ‘British Museum isn’t flawless afterall’ bandwagon. But now I’ve been and I guess I need to write about it.
I really enjoyed the Vikings! exhibition at National Museums Scotland last year (and now really wish I’d blogged about it) – when I left I felt like I had gained, even in some small way, a sense of what it was like being a Viking, for instance, with many objects relating to the importance of keys and women and the home you could relate to it on a different level than just male warriors. I was hoping I’d be able to build on some of that at the British Museum’s new exhibition, alas, I think I (or they) failed.
There were some objects here at the British Museum that I loved – the huge, impractical 650g brooch with its long protruding pin that did more to show off the status of the wearer than to keep any fabric in place; the wooden feasting bucket; and the Hunterston brooch with its mix of Scandinavian alphabet and Irish/Scottish name quoted on it (Maelbrighda). And I really liked the large photos that were in each room too, including the landscapes Vikings encountered, a reconstruction of the inside of a longhouse in Norway (yay, reconstructions, but alas, only in photo form), and the Viking boat in situ during excavation.
There’s definitely a lot to see and if you did diligently read every description I’m sure you will build up a rich view of the Viking world, but to be honest I need a bit more help than that as I have quite a short attention span. Let me know what the main points of the story are and I’ll pick up the detail as I go, but here I wasn’t sure what the main story was.
Or maybe the fact Vikings were adventurous seafarers and traders was just a bit of a boring story? Like an exhibition explaining that Romans didn’t just kill and enslave, but brought trade and cultural assimilation – I already know that story, so showing me the inside of someone’s house in Pompeii (as the British Museum did last year) is definitely going to grab my attention a lot more. But unfortunately little grabbed my attention in this Viking exhibition and that left me with little enthusiasm to delve deeper.
…and two more things while I’m at it – please please please number the objects and descriptions, I kept getting confused and a crowded exhibition room doesn’t lend itself to having to spend some time working it out, and please please please let me take photos. People want a personal experience and photos are a part of that now whether you like it or not, having someone shout ‘no photos please’ every 5 minutes is a bit tedious when they just want their picture of a Viking boat to take home with them, if they’ve paid £16.50 each please just let them have their photo.