sml logo Dark Ages Re-Creation Company sml logo

Saturday, August 29, 2009

On : "Viking garb accessories..belt and pouch?"

(Cross Posted from 'Hammered Out Bits')

This post is edited from my comments relating to a topic under consideration right now on NORSEFOLK . The following came in from those indicated (first names only) that bears on the topic at hand:

Is it standard to wear a belt w/pouch over a woman's apron dress? ... Proper styles? I'm putting together my first viking garb outfit.

A nice article on the pouch controversy comes from a Regia group,
Guerin y Gwyr:

As one of the main authors of the article on pouches within Regia that
Guerin y Gwyer have posted on their website.
I would like to point out this was a bit of research done when the
Authenticity officer was planning a total ban on pouches within the society
( due to the large number of painted hard leather "cartridge box" style
Myself and Andy and Gary ( surnames removed) were acting as Devils advocates and pointing to evidence of some types of pouches in period in the UK. Including evidence pointing towards fabric pouches being use in the UK.


On this :
Note that there is an underlying philosophy to re-creating past eras at the core of this quite excellent overview (which I suggest anyone interested here reads). To paraphrase from the introduction to the article above :

' ... the Code of Law is organised so the argument for (the use of any object) bears the burden of proof. We must prove our case (for the inclusion of the object) rather than the Authenticity Officer proving his (reasons for removing it). Since its inception it has been accepted by the authenticity department that three provenances are regarded as sufficient proof for the use of a period item in a Regia context. '
So this is the core principle adopted by Regia to regulate what objects might be included for use in any of their presentations. On the face of it, very good - seems clear and easy to understand. Notice that it specifically relates to the individual historic focus of Reiga Anglorum itself. They describe themselves : "Regia Anglorum attempts to recreate a cross section of English life around the turn of the first millennium. Our actual self imposed brief is AD950 - 1066..."

Now, if you refer back to Allan's comment, you catch something else. Its a reference to a specific practical problem, what I will refer to here as a 'requirement' :
"... the Authenticity officer was planning a total ban on pouches within the society ( due to the large number of painted hard leather "cartridge box" style
So two things are pointed up here.
1) The structure of this group is such that there is a specific individual who serves as the arbitrator for such decisions.
2) In this specific case, a generalized ruling was under consideration. This because a specific style of object (hard leather box pouch) had grown to be used by participants, well outside what was considered suitable from the artifact record.

So the general implementation of the ruling of 'no belt pouches' was based as much on reaction to an over use of a specific type, than a general lack of artifact evidence. In the article, there is a summery of a number of available artifact prototypes, but also a quick discussion of the problems related to the preservation of certain kind of objects in the artifact record at all.

Ok - to continue:

Then there was a lot of back on forth after this, primarily directed to larger shoulder style bags, simple rectangular haversacks or 'scripts', mostly suggested made out of various fabrics. The raw volume of 'needed' objects seemed to keep growing, and thus the size of the bags ever increasing.
I'm afraid I start feeling like a 'Russian Judge' listening to this talk. More fool me, I keep wanting to direct people back to basic principles (usually followed up with some practical advice):

The simple solution is to do what they did in the Viking Age.

Have less stuff
Carry less stuff

Lock all your modern personal valuables in the car - then all you need
to have available is a single car key. That does not need to be on your
person most likely, so it can stay in your sea chest.

Modern Wallet? Like - why? You don't need your ID on you, credit cards
are useless at the event. Cash does not take up too much space. Norse
with a cell phone - you are kidding, right?

I have a real small pouch for the belt. Its maybe 3 x 4 inches. It holds
my asthma inhaler (always) eye glasses (sometimes), watch (very rarely)
and sometimes that single car key. There would be room for folding money (as if I ever had any anyways.) What else do you REALLY need?

If I might suggest : Shedding modern gadgets is part of integrating into
a historic characterization....

(round two)

First - A common solution observed from Settlement Era events (both men and women) :
Remember those old hippy bic lighter 'pouch on a thong' things? I've seen women wear a small asthma inhaler size pouch (like about 1 1/2 x 2 inch) pouch around
their necks - which (for many) just fits down the cleavage. This is big enough for an inhaler, that key, some folded paper money.

Second - No reason not to steal ideas from other time periods :
In the early 1800's (at least in Upper Canada) women could wear a flat fabric 'pocket' on a flat ribbon of cloth that tied around the waist and under the apron. Take two pieces of cloth and sew them around the edges. (The prototypes are oval, with a slit at the top for access) This allowed them to hold and carry some personal items.

Third - I do NOT want to get into a bitch slap with the costume people.
There are a number of underlaying core assumptions being made by many people on this topic - maybe without them realizing it:

1) Are the limited historic evidence of (women's) clothing in any way accurate to 'real' life?
2) Are those evidences only relevant to specific class / wealth / situation?

These two are of primary significance to this whole conversation.
- The illustrations are by their very nature cartoon like. They are almost always A) physically small and B) rendered in media that do not allow detail. I defy anyone looking at a one inch high silver token of a woman to make out anything more than the most general outlines. Much less if there is a small flat pouch under an apron.
- Burials are NOT representational of daily life. Do modern people get buried with their driver's licences and medications stuffed in pockets? Does anyone really carry a cell phone in their wedding dress?

Fourth (key) - What depth of re-creation is any individual able / willing / intending to maintain?

A number of people mentioned (thank you) that there is a balance to be made between a modern reality and a historic accuracy. If you REALLY are trying to duplicate the 1000 AD Norse - you just DO NOT have a cell phone! I'm afraid the whole conversation was degrading into an argument about 'having your cake and wanting to eat it too' ... but at the same time 'not having anyone see you carry it around with you in the mean time'.

Now, anyone who has been following this Blog (or check the links please) , I primarily operate at a fairly professional level in terms of historic interpretation. Please remember that this informs my point of view and comments.

Some more advice, from (considerable) experience in designing museum interpretive programs, which often have to deal with the same root problems:
- Staff are modern people who live in the 21st Century (they just work in the 'past')
- Some modern objects are required on hand for security, safety, etc
- The general public often has considerable access to the presentation area (if only when someone's back is turned).

There are a number of ways to create 'passive security' for equipment.
- Use of simple fabric / leather bags or closed baskets to hold and cover modern objects that need to be close to hand / be highly portable (this discussed recently at some length)
- Use of smaller wooden chests (small sea chest from Oseberg the ideal prototype) The easiest way to secure this is simply to use it as a seat.
- Obstruct entry ways to tents etc by placing chests / shields / buckets, etc across entrances. In practice, most people will not actually enter a space they have to 'crawl over' to get into.
- Away from camp? Slide the sea chest so its under the edge of a bed. Or place something heavy on top of it (say a shield). Or put a lot of simple smaller stuff on top. You'd be surprised how the remains of a lunch (crust of bread on a wooden trencher) set on a sea chest will keep people from trying to open a box.
- Away from your spot at the fire? A loop of rope tied around the sea chest will act as a simple restriction to access.

Yes, I KNOW we can all supply stories of nervy people who will poke into almost anything. I KNOW there is little you can do to stop someone seriously intending to steal things.
Truth is - anything so valuable that its theft represents serious loss - is just plain best left at home, or locked in the car. (If its not secure locked in the car, then you OBVIOUSLY should have left it at home!) If you decide to bring it and then carry it with you, just put up with the fact that you will just NOT resemble someone from 1000 AD at the market (who never had a camcorder in the first place).

If someone moves my sea chest to get it open, then complains about my modern first aid kit inside?
It says a heck more about THEM than it does about ME.

"Re-creating History is the Art of the Possible"

Those who are interested in this whole aspect of historic re-creation, might want to read my 1998 paper :
Lessons from the Viking Age - Development of an Interpretive Program for L' Anse aux Meadows NHS

(I once worked with just one other interpreter inside a camp presentation which was visited by 8,000 people over six hours)
Vandy as 'Bera Quickfinger' at the 'Norse Encampment'.
The Orangeville Medieval Festival, 1995


Labels: ,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thule versus Norse?

Readers here may be interested in my commentary on the recent Nature of Things documentary 'Inuit Odyssey' :



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Exploring the Viking Age in Demark

Right now I am preparing for an upcoming lecture for the Peterborough SCA group. This is to be held at Trail College on Wednesday November 26 at 8 PM.

The topic is an overview of my recent research trip to Denmark. I will be showing some of the artifact images I collected, and talking about the museums I visited.

So, I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone. As it turns out, the birds were a sparrow ( the lecture) and an emu (a new AV publication). I am sorting all my 400 plus images, adding commentaries from my notes and formating the whole pile into a reference I hope to have ready to sell in time for Yule. The contents will work via a large set of interlocked 'web pages' that will access through an standard web browser. As most of the images are the large format from my camera (mostly 5 MGP) the total content will have to go on to a DVD disk. This will also allow just the images to be viewed on a standard table top player and TV combination.

As a teaser, this is a short piece of one of the displays I saw at the Roskide Museum. The images here are just the thumbnails - you will have to wait for the publication to see the larger versions!

Because of formating problems, please look over at Hammered Out Bits ...

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 6, 2008

Museums in Denmark

(repeated from Hammered Out Bits )
I had quite differing experiences with the various museums I saw in Denmark:

There were three museums I visited that were basically 'old school' styled presentations: objects in cases, extremely limited labels, objects generally grouped by type. The lighting varied, but generally was reduced general illumination, with use of some spot lighting in the cases. Some idea of light levels can be gathered by the quality of the images. (I have some experience with longer 'hand held' exposures, so the clarity and shift in colour will give some indication of the relative amount of light available.) None of the museums I visited had any staff visible inside the collections themselves (admittedly I was there 'off season', but I also spent several hours at each museum).

The National Museum in Copenhagen had its 'pre-history' gallery closed. For them anything before 1000 AD is lumped together. This new presentation includes virtually ALL the Viking Age materials. It was originally scheduled for opening on May 1, but later delayed to May 17.
The Medieval galleries are very clearly old style. The concentration there was on church related pieces, many larger. The stress appeared to be more to 'treasures' rather than everyday objects. Labels were basic: Object / Location / Date - in English and Danish. Sometimes a line or two of context or more detailed description. No registration numbers (very rarely these were visible on the object itself). If there were a group of like objects (commonly grouped by type) they would share the same three lines and have no further method of identifying them. ('Early Medieval Axes' for a group of a half dozen, obviously mixed construction and combat types) This would make any attempt to get more detailed information from the collection viewing almost impossible. You were not normally allowed to take photographs, and there were no detailed 'guide to the collection' type books available. (Separate topic discussing those.) The gift shop was large with an excellent selection of books ranging from popular overviews to quite detailed archaeological reports.
(Group of Early Medieval Axes)

The Roskilde Museum is actually a complex of related buildings and presentations, each with a different theme. I spent my time at the 'History of Roskilde' collection. The building housing the historic collections was originally a warehouse and factory from the mid 1700's, so there are a large number of small rooms with theme groupings. The objects generally were grouped by find location. Again labels very short (and here only in Danish) with Object / Find / Date. The individual pieces were more usually identified by case number, but again registration numbers were not visible. I'm not as sure here what the policy on photography may have been, as I was introduced to the collection by curator Jens Ulriksen. The gift shop was a small display in the lobby, with limited books available, few in English.
(Group of Blacksmith's tools)

The Ribe Viking Museum focuses quite clearly on two aspects of the history of Ribe, with the main thrust of the collection centred on the Viking Age. About the same floor space is dedicated to Medieval, Renaissance, Early Modern objects (with most stress on the earlier materials). Both the building and the presentation itself are more modern, and it shows in the display layout and methods. This unfortunately includes the use of dramatic spot lighting in rooms with a generally quite reduced light level (to the determent of possible photography). One excellent feature of the presentation was a full scale diorama of a section of the Viking Age market. This put a large number of the artifacts in a working context (and included a huge number of other pieces not represented in the collection.) I think officially there was not supposed to be photography, but I did see any number of general visitors taking photos. The gift shop was again large and had a fairly good selection of books, but here there was more space given to gift items. Popular works were generally available in English, unfortunately most of the research volumes in Danish only.
(Glass Working Display)
(Metalworking in the Viking Market scene)

My visit to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde suffered from a major renovation and my own focus on research of ship building tools. The room normally containing the supporting artifacts was closed, with a new exhibit documenting the recent production of the replica 'Sea Stallion' being installed. Labels were available in Danish and English, with usually a short paragraph of detail. One detail I did like was the working tools in the boat yard area (all replicas of course) were hung in public view. Each had Find / Museum / Registration number. The main ship hall has the preserved remains of a number of the ships on display, backed by detailed scale models for comparison. This hall has a large wall of north facing glass, so photography was simplified (and permitted). There was also a room with walk on reconstructions of two of the ships (primarily intended as a children's activity room. Much of the complex is given over to the docks, the boat construction yard - with the large number of replica ships and boats floating and in use. As outdoor areas, the photography is excellent, outside of the restricted viewing angles. (see an earlier post for ship images). The gift shop here had a very good selection of both popular and research titles, many available in several languages. Most of the detailed research volumes were related to ships (unsurprisingly), but many of those only in Danish.
(Working Tools - some of the axes)
(Children's area with full scale dressed replicas)

Generally I found all the museum collections I visited had greatly reduced information available to the viewer. In many cases only the barest description was provided 'bunch of axes' being typical. Sometimes the objects were not even given enough description to provide real understanding, for example 'spindle whirls' does not inform you about just what those pieces are. With no registration numbers, it would prove very difficult for the research minded to gather detailed information. Rarely were objects placed in any kind of working context. The collections were almost all presented in a formal and static style (Victorian Cabinet of Curiosities). The Viking Ship Museum was the primary exception, but it blurs the line between artifact collection and an experimental archaeology presentation (which in fact are in two distinctive areas of the complex).

I also spent two afternoons at the Ribe Viking Centre, a living history styled presentation. As this museum was not officially open at the time, and also represents an entirely different type of display style, I will leave a discussion of it for another entry.

Labels: ,

      Updated: 4 Dec, 2007
Text © Dark Ages Recreation Company, 2007
Photographs © Individual artists
Copyright details
Contact us