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Go ‘Beyond the Legend’ as ‘Vikings’ arrive at the Franklin Institute

From artifacts to augmented reality, learn about the Viking Age at this exciting new exhibit.

On October 13, “Vikings: Beyond the Legend” makes its North American debut at the Franklin Institute. The exhibit runs through March 3, 2019, and includes 600 unique artifacts, multimedia, hands-on elements, and more to bring these captivating explorers from centuries ago to life.


While we typically picture the Viking as a powerful seafaring warrior, the exhibit seeks to give a more complete and nuanced view of life at the time, incorporating elements of home life, religion, farming, and more to balance out the impressive maritime elements.


The exhibit features three reconstructed Viking ships—one will greet you when you enter the museum’s atrium, so you can get some Viking fun even if you’re not visiting the exhibit! The largest of these three ships is the Roskilde 6, a 122-foot Viking warship dating back to the year 1025. Created with 25 percent of the ship’s original planks, the ship’s form was meticulously recreated with steel, and is on display with multimedia and augmented reality components. The naked eye sees a steel frame of a ship against a giant screen of ocean waves; but hold up a tablet and see the actual form of the ship and how it was rowed.

Photograph by Laura Swartz.

This is just one of the many ways the exhibit uses technology to bring the past to life and make it more interactive. “The story of the Vikings is very much a story of innovation and technology,” remarked Larry Dubinski, President and CEO of The Franklin Institute, so the museum is presenting this extensive peek into Viking life using their own state-of-the art enhancements. There is also a rowing activity where guests have to work together using physical replica oars to maneuver the ship on a screen.


Stand near the rowing experience and take turns manipulating yet another augmented reality via tablet—this time to take a picture with a Viking warrior that you can move around and rotate, and then email yourself the photo as a keepsake. Elsewhere, touchscreens allow you to write the rune alphabet, practice shipbuilding, and more.


The exhibit also contains more low-tech tangible experiences to complement the many artifacts and accompanying information. In the warrior section, you can touch the chainmail suit, and even pick up a replica of a Viking Age sword to feel its weight. Aside from looking at the giant ships, little kids will probably most enjoy the dress-up area with various traditional Viking clothing they can try on (they have adult sizes too, so get in there and take some memorable photos while you’re at it).

Photograph by Laura Swartz.

The massive exhibit continues past the main special exhibit room, so be sure to keep walking so you don’t miss a thing. And beyond the exhibit halls, the Franklin Institute will be showing the film Vikings in the IMAX theater.


If you’re looking to get the most out of the exhibit with little ones, don’t miss opening day, because the museum is going all out with Viking Fest, a family-friendly festival celebrating all things Viking on October 13 from 11 am—3 pm. There will be Viking reenactors including “Erik the Everyday Viking,” an 80-foot-long Leif Erikson replica Viking Ship Norseman on display, live performances, hands-on activities like mini ship building, and even Nerf archery! There will also be demonstrations of Viking crafts and trades like blacksmithing, rune painting, and more.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend” runs from October 13, 2018 — March 3, 2019 at the Franklin Institute, at 222 North 20th Street in Philadelphia. The exhibit is open from 9:30 am — 5 pm daily, and will also have evening hours, remaining open from 5 — 8 pm on Thursdays — Saturdays.


Tickets are $35 for adults and $31 for kids ages 3-11, but if you come during the evening hours, that drops down to $20 for adults and $15 for kids. Members pay just $9 for adults and $8 for kids.


Lead photograph courtesy of the Franklin Institute.

Contributing Writer