Friday I visited the "Mannen i myra" ("The Man from the Bog") exhibition at the University Museum in Tromsø, a very special experience for me. It is exciting to be a contributor to an exhibition centering around one of the most complete early textile finds here in the Arctic, the Skjoldehamn bog burial.
The exhibition is divided into three main sections. As you enter the upstairs hall, there is a cave-like room nearly filled with two large glass cases containing the four primary articles of clothing from the Skjoldehamn find: the hood, the tunic, the kirtle/undertunic and the pants. On the side walls are three small cases containing two of the bands and the ‘sock’. The cases allow close viewing of these thousand-year-old artifacts, but the protective low lighting is not conducive to photography. This is the first time in several decades that these items have been on display together, in and of itself reason enough to make the trip up to the museum.
The second area to the left contains information about the Skjoldehamn artifacts and the debates surrounding the interpretation of the finds. I am including pictures of the material presented on two of the central points of discussion, gender and ethnicity. See the list of contributors towards the end of this article for information on authors.
This part of the exhibition is designed to engage the visitors and encourage them to think about the context of the finds. Dan Halvard Løvlid’s reconstruction is on loan from Lofotr museum, giving an example of how the Skjoldehamn clothing might have looked when new. On one side wall a display allows visitors to try their hand at weaving one of the braids, cleverly done in climbing rope for ease of manipulation.
I have contributed three items to this part of the exhibition: a reproduction of the blanket used as a shroud in the burial and two copies of the hood. The hoods have been worked in two sizes, a smaller one in darker brown wool cut to approximate the size of the original, and a larger one in ocher yellow. These have been suspended by alligator clips in front of a curved wall displaying a panorama view of Andøya. Visitors are allowed to handle these items and to try on the hoods, giving a tactile connection with the artefacts.
I’ll have to admit it was pretty special to see my name on one of the display tags!
The third section of the exhibition examines the methodology used to examine archaeological finds. These are illustrated through another textile find from a boat grave in Vesterålen– the basis for one of my next weaving projects. Another part of this display looks at how cross-disciplinary approaches can give information on the individual buried as well as a glimpse into their living conditions and perhaps even their culture.
The “Mannen i myra” exhibition will be open through February 15, 2016. There will be a series of lectures held in conjunction with the exhibition, check this link for more information.