The Viking Ship Museum impresses heads of state from east and west

Museum curator Anne Sørensen welcomed the prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley and showed the prime minister and his delegation around the Viking Ship Museum.
Museum curator Anne Sørensen welcomed the prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley and showed the prime minister and his delegation around the Viking Ship Museum.
Published 03th Nov 2010

In mid October, the Viking Ship Museum received distinguished visits from the Irish president and Bhutan’s prime minister.

About 70% of visitors to the Viking Ship Museum come from abroad, but it is not every week that we have two such prominent visitors on one week.

On Wednesday the 13th October, the Viking Ship Museum’s director, Tinna Damgaard-Sørensen, and chairman of the museum’s board of directors, Mayor Poul Lindor Nielsen, received the Irish president Mary McAleese, who had asked to see the Sea Stallion from Glendalough again by visiting the Viking Ship Museum as part of a 3-day official visit to Denmark. This was the first time Mary McAleese visited Denmark as president, but she saw the Sea Stallion in Dublin when the ship was exhibited at the Irish National Museum Collins Barracks in Dublin for 10 months from 2007 to 2008.

However, the president not only visited the reconstruction of the large Viking ship, but also had an opportunity to greet members of the Sea Stallion’s crew.

The director of the Viking Ship Museum, Tinna Damgård-Sorensen, explains that the meeting with the crew was arranged based on the wishes of the president: “We thought that we were only going to show her around, but she wanted to meet the crew herself”.

The museum therefore used this opportunity to invite the Sea Stallion’s crew and the closest collaborators from the project “Thoroughbred of the Sea” to a reception, where the president was given ample opportunity to talk with e.g. skipper Carsten Hvid.

Distinguished and rare visit from Bhutan

On Friday morning the 15th October, museum curator Anne C. Sørensen received the prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley, and the Minister for Works and Human Settlement, Mr. Zimba. Prime Minister Jigmy Y. Thinley is the first democratically elected prime minister of Bhutan, one of the youngest democracies in the world.

Bhutan is a nation that places great emphasis on the preservation of culture, and cultural issues are the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Cultural and Home Affairs. Bhutan insists that the preservation of culture is crucial for the nation and the security and independence of the 700,000 Bhutanese. At the same time, the idea that growth does not necessarily make people happier is crucial, and instead of merely enumerating the country’s wealth in the form of the traditional measures of countries’ wealth, gross national product, Bhutan has introduced a concept called ‘gross national happiness’; a kind of happiness index, which has been incorporated into the country’s entire structure, from schools to businesses.

And it is precisely the Viking Ship Museum’s work of reviving forgotten traditions of craftsmanship that has attracted the interest of the prime minister, and which was the basis for his desire to visit the museum.

So, even though the cold Danish autumn weather was not to the liking of the Bhutanese delegation, the prime minister showed great interest in the entire museum area. The prime minister’s attention was especially drawn by the Swedish ex-voto model ship from 1944, Brudpiga. The boat is currently located in the shipbuilding hall, where it is undergoing extensive maintenance work. Outside on the shipyard site, the Bhutanese delegation met the Viking Ship Museum’s boat-builders, who talked about the work on the reconstruction of a Viking ship, Skuldelev 6, which is currently in full swing. The prime minister commented that the traditional timber work is still performed in much the same way in Bhutan. “We are trying to preserve our craftsmanship traditions and you are trying to recreate yours” said the prime minister, when Anne C. Sørensen described the work to restore the Vikings’ craftsmanship. On the whole, it was clear that the prime minister had looked forward to the visit, and both he and the rest of the delegation spoke at length with, among others, boat-builder Eric Jochumsen.

Inside the Viking Ship Hall, the delegation saw the 5 original Viking ships from Skuldelev and the museum’s other exhibitions. When he saw the Sea Stallion in heavy seas, which can be seen on the 7 metre wide film wall in the special exhibition “The Sea Stallion - from dream to reality” about the trip to Dublin and back, the prime minister asked whether the crew had expected to be very seasick. He himself believed that just seeing the film could make the average Bhutanese uncomfortable, particularly as Bhutan has no coastline!

The Sea Stallion’s voyage impressed the prime minister, though he couldn’t resist asking about the crew, just as the Vikings were tempted by the feisty Irish maidens.

» See photos from the visits... (in Danish)