Vikings, runes and nice company in Minneapolis

4 October 2019

An engaged and inquisitive audience got hear Professor Henrik Williams talk about runes.

At the end of September Uppsala university alumni and friends were invited to American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis to visit the exhibition “The Vikings Begin” and listen to Professor Henrik Williams lecture on runes. But also to meet and exchange experiences among friends.

The evening began with a reception for alumni of Uppsala University. Uppsala University Alumni Network is a network for all former students and employees and thanks to good relations between Uppsala and universities in its sister city Minneapolis there is a reasonable group alumni here. Different events are organised within the network for the alumni to meet, have fun and exchange experiences.

Big interest for runes in Minnesota

The reception was followed by a well-attended open lecture by Professor Henrik Williams, professor at the Department of Scandinavian languages at Uppsala University, titled “The Vikings Begin…with runes”. During the lecture, Professor Williams debunked some myths about runes and Vikings, which awoke the curious audience interest.

"There is nothing wrong with continuing to depict helmets with horns, as long as you know the truth", said Williams.

Another message from the lecture is that runes are not symbols, they are not magic or heathen. They are characters just like our letters and they carry great importance in telling our history and our culture.

Professor Williams rounded up by thanking the American Association for Runic Studies, an organisation which strives to promote academic and scholarly research regarding runes and runic-like letters in Europe and North America. The organisation has generously supported research at Uppsala University and was well represented at the lecture by several of its members, with board member and Swedish-American Myrna G. Smith in the lead.

Viking exhibition on tour

The Vikings Begin is an exhibition produced by Gustavianum, Uppsala University Museum, in collaboration with archaeologists at the University, which is currently on tour in the US. American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis is the third and final stop for the tour, which so far has drawn large crowds in both Boston and Seattle. The exhibition contains exhibits dating back some 1,300 years to the era prior to the Viking Age from Valsgärde, north of Uppsala.

"It’s been an honor for the American Swedish Institute to work with Museum Gustavianum in bringing The Vikings Begin exhibition to Minnesota, which has been the most heavily attended exhibition in our museum’s recent history. As part of the programming, we have hosted several research scholars from Uppsala University who’ve spoken to large, attentive audiences about Viking life, history and culture. There’s clearly an interest in this subject among our audience, who now understand more about the fine scholarship and materials at Uppsala University on the Vikings. We’re grateful to Uppsala University for sharing all of this with the American Swedish Institute", said Bruce Karstadt, President & CEO of American Swedish Institute.

You can visit The Vikings Begin at the American Swedish Institute until 27th October 2019.

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