Vikings' saga told in traveling Smithsonian exhibit

WASHINGTON -- The exhibition "Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga" opened April 29 at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History here.

The $3 million, 5,500-square-foot exhibition comprises more than 200 artifacts and is recognized as an official project of the White House Millennium Council.

Commemorating the 1,000-year anniversary of the Vikings' arrival in North America, which takes place this year, the exhibition continues through Aug. 13 in Washington and will travel over the next two years to New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Ottawa.

The exhibition brings together for the first time artifacts from the Viking Scandinavian homelands of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, as well as those from Iceland, Greenland, Finland, Canada and the U.S. All are lands the Vikings visited during their westward expansion.

Will any of this stir interest in travel to Scandinavia?

"No question about it," said Einar Gustavsson, director, the Americas of the Icelandic Tourist Board and chairman of the European Travel Commission. "This is the event of 2000 for the Smithsonian. We are very confident that this is going to jazz up interest in Scandinavia for lots of American people. It is very well publicized by the Smithsonian's PR department, and we expect that also to help."

Gustavsson noted that the Oct. 17 opening of the exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York will be preceded by the Oct. 5 docking of the Viking ship Islendingur in New York Harbor. A permit is being sought to display the 70-foot ship outside the museum for the duration of the exhibit.

The ship, a replica of one found in Norway 200 years ago, is scheduled to depart Iceland on June 17 and Greenland on July 17. One of its crew members will be Iceland-born Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, who flew on the space shuttle Endeavor in 1997.

"The Icelandic sagas teach us that dreams can come true," said Bjorn Bjarnason, chairman of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Cultural Affairs, which along with Volvo is funding the exhibition. "One such dream was the discovery of America."

Bjarnason said that according to the 12th century Book of the Icelanders, only 14 of the 25 ships that left Iceland in 988 to colonize Greenland reached their destination.

For more information on "Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga" and related programming, contact Kara Callaghan at (202) 357-4077.

Smithsonian Information Center
Phone: (202) 357-2700
Web: www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/vikings

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