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Researchers translate Norse Culture

Date: 11/04/2014

The first major exhibition on Vikings at the British Museum for over 30 years which opened on 6 March in London highlights research by Viking experts.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Professor Judith Jesch from the University of Nottingham, who contributed to the exhibition is leading an initiative to bring knowledge about Viking heritage to parts of the UK and Ireland where there is potential to develop local understanding of their links to this period.

The BP-sponsored exhibition, Vikings- Life and Legend, showcases archaeological discoveries new and old, including religious images, coins and jewellery, swords and axes. At the centre of the show are the remains of a 37-metre Viking warship excavated at Roskilde in Denmark in 1997.

The AHRC research project, 'Languages, Myths and Finds' is built around the British Museum exhibition and involves 20 PhD students from eight universities led by a team of academics. The group has just been given a private view of the exhibition and gathered valuable information from the curator, Gareth Williams, about new ways of translating Norse and Viking culture for 21st century audiences.

The researchers are now travelling to five different parts of the UK and Ireland- Dublin, Cork, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Lewis and Cleveland- to engage with local people and produce a series of guidebooks on the Viking heritage of each area. During the week-long visits the teams will work with teachers, schoolchildren and tourism and heritage industry professionals to tailor the booklets to local needs and interests.

Professor Jesch said: We aim to raise the profile of Viking history both in areas where the Celtic heritage dominates and in areas where there is still little awareness of their Norse history. A good example is Cleveland in north-east England where the hill called Roseberry Topping is the only place-name in England to contain the Norse form of the name of the god Odin.

Aya Van Renterghem, also doing her PhD, added: I really enjoyed the exhibition. They've got a lot of the really famous things on show which you hear about and read about in books but it's something different to actually see them in real life. I am part of the team going to the Isle of Man to make a Viking trail of the island, especially based around stone sculpture and archaeological evidence. This will eventually be available to the public and the tourist industry there. We are also running a 'childrens university' workshop on Viking Runes and even re-enacting a Viking burial so it's all very exciting and a great way to disseminate our research.

Curator at the British Museum, Gareth Williams, said: The Vikings remain a popular subject, both at university level and with the general public. One of the factors behind that is the strong connection which many people feel with the Viking past. The sense of Viking heritage both in parts of Britain and elsewhere underpins much of our approach in the BP Exhibition Vikings: life and legend, and in the associated public programme and publications. We are very happy to have facilitated the Languages, Myths and Finds project in working with our exhibition, and wish the project's students every success in their engagement with five regions.

A two-day conference on the AHRC Languages, Myths and Finds will be held at The University of Nottingham on 28-29 June 2014 to bring academics and non-academic stakeholders together to hear and discuss the results of the project.

The BP exhibition 'Vikings: life and legend' at the British Museum runs until 22 June 2014.

More information is available from:

Emma Rayner (Media Relations Manager, University of Nottingham), 0115 951 5793, emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk

Professor Judith Jesch (University of Nottingham), 0115 951 5925, judith.jesch@nottingham.ac.uk

Alex Pryce (AHRC), 01793 41 6025, a.pryce@ahrc.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

  • The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is 'the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain'(Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also the most popular university among graduate employers, the world's greenest university, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for 'Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development'. It is ranked in the World's Top 75 universities by the QS World University Rankings.
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk
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