A ferocious Viking warship
Roskilde 6 is famous for being the largest Viking warship ever discovered. Excavated alongside ten other warships on the banks of Roskilde fjord in the 1990s, only 20% of the original ship remains. But more than 1,000 years ago, when the Vikings ruled the waves, Roskilde 6 was the pinnacle of seafaring technology. Seeing its sails appear on the horizon struck terror into people. The ship would be carrying a small army of Viking men, hungry for glory, armed and ready to raid.
Now, Roskilde 6 is the centrepiece of the Vikings exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark. It sits as the dividing line between two parts of the exhibition. On the one side, an unparalleled collection of artefacts is placed in context alongside the most recent research. On the other side, a breathtaking film brings a Viking raid to life.
In just 12 months, from competition to opening, we designed and delivered the exhibition, which breathes new life into the story of the Vikings in Denmark.
A portal between two worlds
Roskilde 6 takes its rightful place in the centre of the exhibition hall. Thrust in the middle of the gallery, the length of this fearsome ship slices the space in two: one side of the gallery explores the ship as a physical artefact, the other as a site of imagination. The two sides hold a mirror up to each other and transform the ship into a physical and metaphorical portal between two worlds – the world as we know it today, and the world of the Vikings.
In the Main Gallery, the ship becomes a lens through which can we understand Viking society. Here, the focus is on archaeology and science – how do we know what we know about the Vikings? What can we understand about this civilisation from what they left behind? How can we piece together the past?
Setting the stage for a Viking raid
In the Raid Gallery, Roskilde 6 becomes the backdrop of a dramatic film that immerses you in a Viking raid. Tensile fabrics form the setworks and take inspiration from the sails – the parts of the ship lost to time. These forms occupy the air, sweeping in and out of view to create enclosures for the different scenes in the narrative, all the while backdropping the ship and transforming it into a live vessel once again.
The National Museum of Denmark is on a transformative journey, turning towards a storytelling approach across all of its galleries. The Raid is part of this transformation. Over time, the exhibition will evolve to focus on different aspects of the Viking story, while keeping the core structure of the displays. This hybrid model breaks down the barriers between expensive, short-lived exhibitions and permanent exhibitions that risk becoming obsolete and outdated.
Martin de Thurah