Good afternoon and welcome to the National Museum of Natural History. Iím Bob Fri, director of the museum. It is my pleasure to tell you about the exhibition that will be the centerpiece of the Smithsonianís millennium celebration, "Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga."
The show will open at the Natural History Museum on April 29th 2000, and follow with a 2-year tour that will include New York, Ottawa, Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago.
"Vikings," as we call it, is a unique collaboration with the five Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. We are proud to note the generous support the exhibition enjoys from our partners, the Nordic Council of Ministers and Volvo.
We are also grateful for help from the White House Millennium Council, and we are especially honored to have First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with us today to announce this millennium project.
The logo on the screen behind me represents an exhibition that will bring to life the story of an extraordinary people who archeologists now affirm were on these shores at 1000 A.D., nearly 500 years before Columbus. They didn't stay long, but the fact that they got here at all makes for a remarkable tale -- or in Nordic terms -- a "saga."
This 1000-year anniversary, coinciding as it does with the new millennium, is a fitting means of celebrating the power of the human spirit and its triumphs over adversity.
The Viking's trek from their Scandinavian homelands across the North Atlantic Islands to North America resulted in an historic moment in history -- a time when two streams of humanity, one European and Native America, met for the first time on the northeastern shores of North America.
Our Viking exhibition will present this saga with spectacular artifacts -- treasure hordes, Viking ship grave finds, and other archeological, historical, and artistic materials. The exhibit will explore the mysteries of Viking ship-building, navigation, and examine theories about the disappearance of the Norse colonies in Greenland.
"Vikings" will also take a lighthearted look at Viking themes and imagery in American culture, from cartoons to Viking warriors and football teams.
The themes of this exhibition -- exploration, discovery of new frontiers, human independence, stewardship of the planet -- are a vibrant part of the Viking past. And as we explore this chapter of our own history, we may also see ourselves as modern Vikings spurred on by many of the same ideals that brought Vikings to our shores 1000 years ago.
The Smithsonian's Natural History Museum is the hub of a growing national educational network in the natural sciences. The knowledge that this museum imparts through its scientific research will be in abundance throughout this exhibition. Indeed, we are fortunate to have the expertise of an outstanding team of museum curators led by Dr. Bill Fitzhugh, with assistance from Elizabeth Ward, to draw upon in our presentation of the Viking saga.
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