Thursday, March 13, 2014

Viking Long Ships

By Nigel Thomas

During the early Middle Ages, the people of Denmark, Norway and Sweden built fast, ocean-going vessels called long ships, also known as Drakkars, or Dragon ships, since they often had wooden dragon heads carved at the front. Used for war, trade, and exploration, the long ship evolved over many years and appeared in its complete form between the 8th and 13th centuries. The character and appearance of these ships have been reflected in Scandinavian boat-building traditions up until today.

                                       Painting of a Viking long-ship

The long ship is characterized as a graceful, narrow, light wooden boat designed for speed. The ship’s shallow draft allowed navigation in waters too shallow for larger vessels, and permitted beach landings. Fitted with oars along almost its entire length, long ships also had rectangular sails that were often beautifully colored. The average speed of Viking ships varied from ship to ship but lay between a range of 5-10 knots. The maximum speed of a long ship in favorable conditions was around 15 knots. The length of long ship also varied.  A master of all trades, long ships were wide and stable, yet fast, light, and nimble. With all these qualities combined in one ship, the Vikings had the most powerful navy of their time.
Long ships were highly prized possessions and were very important to the Viking culture. In fact, one Viking custom involving the long ship was to bury dead kings in their ships. A famous example of a ship that was buried with its owner is the Gokstad ship, which was found on Gokstad farm in Norway, in 1880.  
               Gokstad Vikings ship excavation, photographed in 1880
Excavating ship burials allows historians, archaeologists and others to learn more about how the Vikings lived and what their ships were like.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Scandinavian Traveling Trunks

 By Amanda Munro 

When you visit the Nordic Heritage museum there is a lot to take in, but one thing that always intrigued me was the trunks on display that were once used to immigrate to America. These old trunks interest me simply for the fact of how they traveled with something so big and bulky unlike our more manageable suitcases, but also for the fact of bringing all of your belongs into a limited amount of space to a unknown land that claimed to have its streets paved with gold. What on earth would you bring? Nordic immigrants filled these beautifully decorated trunks with clothes, linens, shoes, bibles, pots and pans, and whatever else they needed for the long trek to a new land.

These trunks were always decorated ethnically to where that individual was from. Most commonly rosemaled, these trunks also had the name of the trunks owner, along with the year, stylistically written. After being used these trunks were kept in the home as a piece of furniture and a reminder of their native land. These trunks are admired and passed down through generations. I admire these trunks whenever I see them because they are a big piece of our heritage to see what our family members did and how even through traveling they preserved their culture.

Finland: Is it really Nordic?

By Eli Mrozek

Today we think of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland as Nordic Europe, the northernmost regions of Europe. Out of these nations one stands apart as a completely unique and separate culture with a completely different heritage, being influenced by their own unique folk culture and their Russian neighbors who have ruled Finland in the past and wield considerable influence over the Finnish people and state. These differences lead us to the questions, is Finland a Nordic nation, and what does it mean to be a Nordic nation?

To the first question I would say the answer lies in Finnish culture and history. In its earliest days, Finland has been constantly fought over by Sweden and Russia, both greatly influencing the native Finnish culture. At first it was conquered by the Swedes, who brought Catholicism to the country, with Russian cultures also spreading orthodoxy farther West towards Finland, which eventually clashed. As Sweden incorporated Finland into its empire, Swedes began to move to Finland, who is now Finland’s largest minority. The Finnish people resented them as they saw the Swedes as aristocratic oppressors. This Swedish rule however brought Lutheranism to Finland and brought about the translation of the bible in Finnish, spreading literacy. This rule also made Finland a very poor country. Later in after the Great Northern War, Russia conquered Finland and made it an autonomous duchy, this being the first form of an independent Finland. This rule brought Russification, in other words the spread of Russian culture, ordered by the Grand Duke, Tsar Alexander I of Russia. This brought the Russian language to Finland, becoming the official language of the country. The orthodoxy grew and became official, and continues to receive special treatment and preference from the Finnish government along with Lutheranism. This Russian dominance further solidified Finnish identity and helped define what the Finnish nation was, gaining independence in 1917 as a result.

Flashing forward to today, we still see this Finnish separation from the rest of Nordic Europe in politics and in the populous culture. Finland is separated from the rest of Nordic Europe largely by language, whereas all other Nordic languages are Germanic and closely related. The Finnish language is part of the Finno-Ugric language family, originating in the Ural Mountains of Russia. To further show its distance linguistically from Nordic Europe, I’d like to note that the closest related languages to Finnish are Estonian and Hungarian. They all share similar sentence structure and all lack gender in speech. For example:
Finnish:            Elävä kala ui veden alla.
Estonian:         Elav kala ujub vee all.
Hungarian:      Eleven hal úszkál a víz alatt.
All of these sentences mean “the living fish swims underwater”

We can also see the separation of Finland in politics and society. Finland tends to be more socially conservative than the rest of Nordic Europe, with baby boxes (an alternative option to abortion in which a baby is left anonymously in a safe place to be cared for, with the mother being able to take it back in an 8 week period before adoption) being the norm instead of abortion, which is difficult to receive, and much more conservative in terms of sexuality as well. Finland has also recently become very Eurosceptic (distrust in the Eurozone and the European Union), with the True Finns party, a socially conservative party, making huge gains in recent months. Finland’s prime minister has also stated that Finland is prepared to leave the Eurozone due to damage upon the Finnish economy. Finland now mainly trades with Russia and in recent years has built stronger economic ties in business with Russians, this larger exchange being successful due also to the large number of Finns who speak Russian, on par with Eastern bloc countries.

Finland overall looks ready to take its own path, sharing links with both Nordic Europe and Russia, while being completely its own in culture and language. With many influences creating the modern Finnish state, I would not call Finland a Nordic nation, rather one in close association, like Estonia or Northern Germany. I find that Finland is impossible to group, like Romania of Hungary, because of its distance from its lingual relatives and its isolated culture that is highly individual. Due to these discrepancies between Finland and the rest of Nordic Europe, I see Nordic Europe as a natural region with cultures that affected each other greatly, not being a cultural link between all these nations, and following this rule, the region of Karelia in Russia is also Nordic, and many others for that matter. Due to this I would say a true definition of Nordic Europe is a loose one and I would generally say it always involves Scandinavia and occasionally the nations it has influenced greatly. So to all who read this, I want you to decide for yourselves, what does it mean to be Nordic?

Cursive Handwriting

The Nordic Heritage Teen Council has been discussing heritage through the lens of arts and crafts.  We have also talked about what makes up our own personal heritage, so I decided to write about cursive handwriting because it is a part of how I identify my own heritage.  

Cursive handwriting has been prevalent ever since there was written language.  From Ancient Egyptian to Roman, from Arabic to Chinese, these languages all developed a type of connected or continuous style for their handwriting.  Cursive means “running” and comes from Italian cursivo and Medieval Latin cursivus.  Fine handwriting was considered a professional skill in 18th and 19th century America because all professional correspondence was done in cursive.  There were even entire schools dedicated to handwriting. Since the 18th century to the present, there have been many different styles of cursive.  Here is a famous example of handwriting; the Declaration of Independence.

Today, there is a debate on the legitimacy of continuing to teach cursive handwriting in schools.  Keyboarding is now being taught so students become proficient using electronic communication. A lot of school curriculum is no longer requiring cursive because it is no longer used in society.  Many argue that if teaching cursive becomes a thing of the past we will lose the ability to read important documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  I will finish this blog post in my own handwriting because why type about the importance of handwriting?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter 2014 Highlights

It's hard to believe it's almost mid-winter break already, but we've had a stimulating and productive Winter session so far. Check out a few of the highlights and stay tuned for blog posts from the NHTC members soon!

After some exploration, and an in-depth discussion of the ideas of craft and heritage, we kicked back for a little thematically appropriate Lego-time (Legos are a Danish product-- didn't you know?)  Everyone was happy to spend some time building Legos at the end of the session!

We were very lucky that Museum volunteer Barb Johnson was able to join us as a guest presenter a few weeks ago.  She shared her knowledge and skills about the art and craft of traditional Norwegian rosemåling.  In addition to bringing her work, and some painting supplies, she also brought her famous almond cake! Another thing we learned about Barb-- she's not even Norwegian!  A good example of personal heritage.  Thanks for a great experience, Barb!

Barb starts off with some information about the origins of rosemåling.

Here Barb explains that the Rogaland style of rosemåling 
is characterized by a symmetrical design. 
(On the back table is a small sample of Barb's own work). 

How do you even read this pattern? Where do you begin? 
Barb had some good tips.
After Barb's presentation, the NHTC members got to try their hand  at rosemåling. 
Here are Amanda, Sophia and Eli.

And here Nigel and Evan are working away.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nordic Heritage Teen Council: Winter 2014

We're excited to announce the next session of the NHTC, beginning on January 9! Lucas Sheetz, who will head up this year's Teen Council, has been working hard to plan on awesome winter session. Lucas is a second-year graduate student in the UW Museology Program. He loves museums and teaching, and he's a great addition to the program. The winter session will focus on the idea of arts and crafts. Using Nordic heritage and the Museum's collection as a jumping-off point, we will explore heritage through the lens of artistry and craftsmanship, and touch upon other cultures according to the interests of the group.  We will explore process, design and function, and even have the opportunity to create our own objects of heritage. Students will also contribute to the Nordic Heritage Teen Council blog, and share their process of inquiry, experience, and ideas with a broader audience. Finally, students will plan and deliver public programs for the Museum's Free First Thursday events.

We are looking forward to a fun and engaging winter session that celebrates the heritage of all cultures, and reminds us of why it is worth preserving.

Winter Session: January 9-March 13, 2014

Application Deadline: January 1, 2014

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How to Make Krumkake

This past week, the NHTC learned how to make krumake from one of our experts here at the museum. Louise was gracious enough to share her special recipe and teach us a thing or two about this delicious Norwegian delicacy.

2 c. cream
2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 egg yolk
A few drops of vanilla and almond extract or cardamom, to taste

And of the course, the most important ingredient in any recipe, you need a crew of hungry and eager bakers.

Making krumkake requires some specialty equipment: a krumkake iron, and some krumkake cones. While krumkake irons aren't cheap, they are definitely worth it if you like cookies, Nordic food, or joy and satisfaction.

First, you have to beat the cream and sugar together. This is where the "magic touch" is required - it has to be stiff, but not too stiff. A smile helps you to achieve the right consistency. Make sure to hide your smile behind a funny face if someone else is interfering with your work.

Beat the egg into the mixture. Add flour gradually, then add the vanilla and almond extract/cardamom.

Now, we are ready to make the krumkake. Place about a tablespoon of batter into each mold in the krumkake iron. If you add more than this, you will be wasting precious krumkake batter, depriving all your friends and family of their chance to take "just one more," thereby ruining Christmas.

"Ahh! Hot!!"

Let the krumkake bake until it is begins to turn golden brown on both sides, quickly remove and roll onto a tube or krumkake cone while the cookie is still hot. This will ensure that the cookie achieves it's unique form, while also ensuring your fingers achieve 1st degree burns.

Box o' krumkake

Let the krumkake cool for a minute on the form, then remove. And guess what? This recipe makes 50 krumkake. 50! And they're great while they're hot, so why not eat a few right away. I know I ate "a few" (depending on your definition of "a few"). Or you can fill them with whipped cream, lingonberries, or anything else you have handy (icre cream, perhaps?). I may not be Norwegian, but I'll celebrate with the rest of them when the krumkake come out.

-Dylan High