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Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp.

565580, 2001
2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved
Printed in Great Britain
PII: S0160-7383(00)00076-1
Authenticity and Commodication
Chris Halewood
Kevin Hannam
University of Sunderland, UK
Abstract: This paper explores the key dimensions of the emerging Viking heritage tourism
in Europe which consists of museums, heritage centers, theme parks, village reconstructions,
and seasonal trading fairs or markets supplemented by the activities of Viking re-enactment
or living history societies. Based on qualitative research, the geographical breadth of the
Viking heritage tourism in Europe is outlined, giving brief case studies of each of the main
types of tourist experience. This is followed with a discussion on how notions of authenticity
and commodication are constructed by key participants through the staging of particular
types of Viking tourism. The article concludes by noting how notions of regulation and
performance operate in Viking heritage tourism. Keywords: Vikings, authenticity, commodi-
cation, heritage, Europe. 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Resume: Le tourisme de lheritage viking: authenticite et marchandisation. Cet article
examine les dimensions cle du tourisme emergeant de lheritage viking en Europe, qui consi-
ste en petits musees locaux, eco-musees, parcs a` the`me, foires commerciales saisonnie`res ou
marches, qui sont completes par les activites de la reproduction viking ou des associations
dhistoire vivante. En se basant sur des recherches qualitatives, on fait un bref compte rendu
du tourisme de lheritage viking en Europe et presente en peu de mots des etudes de cas
de chacun des genres principaux de lexperience touristique. Ensuite on examine comment
les idees de lauthenticite et de la marchandisation sont construites par les participants cle
en organisant certaines sortes de tourisme viking. Larticle se termine en notant comment
fonctionnent les idees de regulation et de representation dans le tourisme de lheritage
viking. Mots-cles: Vikings, authenticite, marchandisation, heritage, Europe. 2001 Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
This paper explores some of the key dimensions of emerging Viking
heritage tourism in western Europe. While this development has been
researched in the United Kingdom, particularly in York (Mordue
1998), nobody to date has researched the very different development
of Viking heritage elsewhere in Europe. The paper seeks to redress
this imbalance.
Chris Halewood is Senior Lecturer in Environmental Studies (School of Humanities and
Social Sciences, University of Sunderland, Priestman Building, Green Terrace, Sunderland
SR1 3PZ, United Kingdom. Email <chris.halewood@sunderland.ac.uk>), with research inter-
ests in environmental impact assessment and cultural and heritage tourism in Europe, includ-
ing an emphasis on activity concerning the Viking theme. Kevin Hannam is Program Leader
for Geography with research interests in environmental tourism development issues in India
and Scandinavia.
The Anglo-American stereotypical representation of Viking heritage
is of sea-faring, sexist, and blood thirsty men raping and pillaging. This
depiction has been widely propagated by the Kirk Douglas lm The
Vikings, novels such as Rde Orm (The Longships) by Frans Bengtsson
(1954), as well as the popular cartoon strip Hagar the Horrible by Dik
Browne which is published globally. Indeed, as recently as August 1999
this classic Hollywood image of the Vikings was shown to be still very
current with the release of the lm The 13th Warrior directed by John
McTiernan and starring Antonio Banderas. The Vikings in this lm
were subsequently described in The Times newspaper as following a
simple but classic recipe: big men with big swords under a big sky
(1999:40). In contrast, in Scandinavia the image of Vikings in popular
culture nds fewer references to war and warriors. Here the Viking
representation is very much concerned with the people who abroad
were known as pirates, but at home lived in a well-ordered society
(Vestfold Kommune Tourism 1998). European Viking heritage tour-
ism has largely attempted to give greater credence to the latter rep-
resentation. However, it is often still the more bloodthirsty image that
initially inspires tourists to visit sites.
This form of tourism has grown since the 70s with new Viking
museums being established, for example the Roskilde ship museum in
Denmark, and older museums shifting their emphasis towards more
Viking material. The current business is now based upon various
museums, heritage centers, theme parks, village reconstructions, and
seasonal trading fairs or markets supplemented by the activities of
Viking reenactment or living history societies. Indeed, interest in
Viking heritage has led to a very full calendar of events. In 1998, for
example, the total number of all varieties of these events in Europe
was 48, with over 5000 people actively participating in their organiza-
tion, and the events attracting upwards of 15,000 tourists daily. What
has been engendered is a heritage tourism phenomenon that fosters
a degree of European integration.
In terms of methodology, the research is based upon a series of semi-
structured interviews with key tourism personnel and Viking group lea-
ders, literature from both bureau and hobby groups, and ethnography
conducted at the Viking trading fairs. This research was conducted at
a number of key sites during 199799: the Jorvik Viking heritage center
York, the United Kingdom, Foteviken Viking village, Sweden; Moes-
gard Viking market, Denmark; Borre Viking market, Norway; Oslo
Ships museum, Norway; Roskilde ship museum, Denmark; Hedeby
museum, Germany; Viking Land theme park, Norway.
Heritage tourism studies clearly embrace a wide variety of different
themes. They generally include the analysis of museums, landscapes,
artefacts, and activities that concentrate on representing different
aspects of the past. The theoretical analysis of heritage tourism has
thrown up a number of conicting perspectives (Crang 1994, 1996;
Urry 1990, 1995). First, there is the landscapes of nostalgia school
of thought which attempts to explain the current growth in heritage
tourism. It argues that in the current era of globalized uncertainty,
heritage tourism offers a degree of security and stability (Hewison
1987; Wright 1985). Heritage is, by and large, dismissed as supercial
junk; tabloid history (Walsh 1992:1); bogus history (Hewison 1987);
or as simply inauthentic by these commentators. A second school of
thought is centerd around MacCannells (1992) notion of staged
authenticity. This refers to the contrived presentation of sites/sights
as if they are authentic. He argues that the tourist is in search of the
real as everyday life is saturated with artice:
The rhetoric of tourism is full of manifestations of the importance of
the authenticity of the relationships between tourists and what they
see: this is a typical native house; this is the very place the leader fell;
this is the actual pen used to sign the law; this is the original manu-
script; this is an authentic Tlingit sh club; this is a real piece of the
true Crown of Thorns (1976:14; emphasis in the original).
However, Hughes points out that often tourists,
do not contrast the staging of their authenticity against direct
experience of the original, but rather with a mental image of that
original which has already been corrupted by mediating inuences
It is further argued that such staging leads to the development of a
distinct tourism space separate from the immediate locality and this
separation prevents any experience of authenticity (MacCannell 1992).
Alternative tourism, on the other hand, is seen as journeys into
uncharted territory beyond the limits of the tourist space, to have
authentic experiences (Cohen 1995:13). When Viking heritage tour-
ism is examined, it becomes apparent that authenticity can be staged
in this way. However, more often than not, rather than the tourists
being caught in a trap away from local life, an alternative situation
can develop whereby Viking heritage tourism becomes integrated into
everyday local life.
A third theme relates notions of authenticity to processes of com-
modication. Indeed, it is argued that inauthenticity often stems from
the commodication processes which give a phenomenon an alienat-
ing and explicit exchange value. Watson and Kopachevsky (1994), for
instance, suggest that the mystery of commodication lies in the way
in which it is able to hide the very thing that determines its value,
namely labor. According to this school of thought, heritage tourism
may also lead to a standardization of culture and a translation of a local
phenomenon into a global one. Authenticity is also often consciously
invoked as an actual marketing strategy. Similarly, various tourism com-
modities, such as souvenirs, are produced and consumed as authentic
experiences. But, quite clearly, their production can be a mixed bless-
ing because while it may be lucrative for a host community, it may
also lead to a craft product being mass produced and becoming inauth-
entic and disassociated from its original meaning.
In looking for authenticity, some tourists focus on the product in
terms of its uniqueness and originality, its workmanship, its cultural
and historical integrity, its aesthetics, and/or its functions and use.
Academic expertise is widely used to confer this quality authenticity
and a sense of place can be conveyed to something: because to some-
thing sold there (Shenhav-Keller 1993). Similarly, shopping at places
where goods are made includes actually seeing the authenticity being
conferred to the object (Littrell, Anderson and Brown 1993). Labels
are also often placed on goods to make them seem more authentic,
to add a quality assurance tag, and even explain their wider context.
Such marking helps to make explicit the exchange value of the pro-
While commodication and concern for authenticity does occur in
Viking tourism, it is arguably much more contested and less straightfor-
ward than is usually suggested in the accounts above. The actual cre-
ators of this form of tourism in Europe, for example, are very much
concerned with the degree of authenticity they are putting forward,
and with retaining a local identity while simultaneously developing
more international linkages. As Cohen points out, authenticity is nego-
tiable. For some tourists, the commercial reproduction of the past may
sufce as an authentic product. In her research into Gaelic heritage
tourism on the Isle of Sky, MacDonald (1997) further argues that link-
ing the community with commercialism can be seen as a negative com-
modication process, but it can also give a culture a new strength and
legitimacy. It is not so much this commodication but the Gaelicization
of commerce too, she notes. MacDonald points out that rather than
viewing heritage tourism simply as something imposed from outside a
community, it can also be thought of as something which is being
actively used to develop local culture and strengthen a pride which
intensies the traditional rather than diluting it.
Historically, Viking tourism has its origins in the wider development
of heritage tourism in Europe. Conventional museums have always
included some material from the period but probably the earliest re-
enactment event was the construction and sailing of copies of the
Viking ship found at Gokstad, Norway. In 1893, one of these, the
Viking, sailed to the Chicago World Fair, replicating Leif Eriksons dis-
covery of Vinland (Newfoundland) a millennium ago. Viking themed
events have also been held in the Shetland Isles since the beginning
of this century and societies of re-enactors have been staging Viking
heritage events elsewhere in the United Kingdom since the 50s. Most
events in Scandinavia, meanwhile, have their origin in the activities of
two archaeologists in Denmark in the 70s. This has grown more
recently with numerous seasonal Viking fairs or markets being
organized. In addition, new permanent museums and heritage centers
have been developed and older museums have shifted their emphasis
towards more Viking material.
This pattern is thus based upon various museums, heritage centers,
theme parks, village reconstructions, seasonal trading fairs or markets,
and the activities of Viking re-enactment or living history societies.
In 1998, Viking themed events accessible to tourists were held in eleven
European countries. Most of the events are, of course, situated in the
Scandinavian countries, where the Viking period had a proportionally
larger historical role. However, Viking events also take place in Hol-
land, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Russia, and the United King-
dom, indeed, wherever there is a record of a Viking presence. One
current project, the North Sea Viking Legacy, is funded by the Euro-
pean Union to the tune of 8.5 million Norwegian Krner ($920,000).
It seeks to help forge links between different Viking heritage groups
in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Spain, and Iceland
(Graver 1999). Indeed, while Richards has recently noted heritage
tourism is now a major pillar of the nascent tourism strategy of the
European Commission (1996:261), key members of the Viking version
frequently proclaim their European identity with statements such as
we are all united under a common bond (interview with British
Viking organizer, Newcastle, in 1999). In this context, Viking heritage
tourism can arguably be seen as a contribution to greater European
integration. Outside Europe, meanwhile, this tourism form also takes
place in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South
Africa. The main venues can be divided into conventional museums,
heritage centers, theme parks, living history village reconstructions,
and seasonal markets. Each of these should be examined before dis-
cussing how to deal with the issues and problems around authenticity
and commodication.
Types of Viking Heritage Tourism
A wide variety of conventional museums gives information about the
Viking period. For example, there are the Roskilde Viking Ships
Museum in Denmark, Hedeby Museum in Northern Germany, and the
University Historical Museum in Oslo, Norway. Meanwhile, the
museum at Bygdy near Oslo, the oldest purpose-built ship museum
in Europe, is representative of this type of tourism activity.
This museum was constructed to house three large Viking period
ships excavated in the late 19th century. They were found unusually
well preserved and two were completely reconstructed, largely from
the original timbers, and they remain the most lavish and complete
burials known in Europe from the Viking period. The ships and asso-
ciated nds represented a new wealth of historical information for this
relatively new country. The nds have signicant national political
status and have been used to help construct a Norwegian sense of
national identity. Indeed a recent brochure for the county in which
the nds were made, Vestfold, boasts that it has a rich selection of
historical treasures from ancient and Viking times, enabling you to go
back in time to the very heart of Norwegian culture (Vestfold Kom-
mune Tourism 1998).
The museum building exhibits some of the characteristics of an
ecclesiastical structure. It is cruciform in plan, with a tall central tower
and stands alone with a perimeter of open ground around it. The aus-
tere interior inspires a sense of reverence for the displayed objects.
Even the viewing platforms for looking down into the ships echo
church pulpits. The unadorned walls curve smoothly into an arched
ceilingall plainly whitewashedwhich removes any potential clash
with the graceful proles of the Viking ships displayed within. Three
arms of the cruciform building are occupied with a ship each and
in the fourth are displayed the artefacts found in the ship burials. This
theme of simplicity is carried through to the simple display cases with
discrete cards bearing a minimum of explanatory text. Essentially the
objects are left to make their own statement to the viewer with the
minimum of interpretative intervention. Tourists may purchase sou-
venirs which have been carefully selected for relevance, academic accu-
racy and quality. The museum thus presents icons of pure authen-
ticity for tourists interested in the Viking period.
A second type of exhibition is conducted in Viking heritage centers.
Jorvik, in York, was opened in 1984 and suggested a novel departure
in representing the past in an indoor (in this case actually
subterranean) venue. Jorvik is based upon the remains of the Viking
town that was a precursor to York, discovered during the construction
of the Coppergate Shopping Centre in 1982. It was conceived, built,
and is run by the York Archaeological Trusts management wing, or
Cultural Resource Management Ltd. Like the Viking Ships Museum,
Jorvik focuses upon archaeological material; however, unlike at
Bygdy, the site of excavation has become the site of exhibition, with
objects displayed in situ or adjacent to their place of discovery. The
reasons for the development of Jorvik at its current location combine
commercial and archaeological factors. Compounding these was an
unexpected national public interest in the site in the period when it
was newly discovered and still being excavated (half a million people
went to look at the dig in progress). The preservation of the site, the
display of the artefacts, and the provision of an attraction in a city
center site were all catered for in its construction with a short shop
frontage but extending a considerable distance underground.
Jorvik is constructed around the time car ride into which tourists
are installed before drifting back through the past (York Archaeolog-
ical Trust 1984) along a time tunnel to arrive in an archaeologically
accurate representation of a Viking town. Traveling along a prescribed
route through the alleys and houses of the display, tourists can see
structures, artefacts, and fully-clothed mannequins, all part of a rigor-
ously researched and accurate view of the past (York Archaeological
Trust 1998). Not only this, but the sounds and even smells of the time
are presented to make the ride an immediate experience and a simu-
lacrum of the past (Meethan 1996; Silver 1988). The nal phase of
the ride is through excavations left as though work is in progress, with
the archaeological material in situ and the paraphernalia of an exca-
vation on view. With the display of the present so quickly following the
past, this juxtaposition of normally segregated realities is characteristic
of a postmodern tourist experience. From the perspective of a decade
of operation, the management see the time cars as forming an attrac-
tion in their own right for the younger tourists, even though the restric-
tion they put on adults and the brevity of the ride can be negative
aspects of the experience. After witnessing the work of cleaning and
analysis of nds in an archaeological laboratoryagain populated by
mannequinsthe participant is liberated from his/her time car into
the nal stage (the Skipper Gallery). This conventional display of
objects in cabinets with interpretative text and gures alongside
includes nothing interactive or radical by way of presentation method
or interpretation.
Jorvik was an immediate commercial success and remains so to this
day with hundreds of thousands of tourists annually (Mordue 1998).
It is a linchpin of the York City strategy and it marked the start of a
new wave of historical interpretation sites; the inuence of the Jorvik
style is everywhere apparent, in museums and in a range of other
past-users (Fowler 1992:116117). The novel elements at Jorvik are
the application of new technology in the heritage eld combined with
a ride attraction, but alongside these, archaeological accuracy and
the educational role are still considered to be essential components.
Similar Viking heritage centers have recently been established at Largs
in the United Kingdom and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.
A third type of experience is given by the Viking theme park. Viking
Land in Norway, a relative newcomer to the array of attractions, is one
part of a large open-air leisure park, Tusenfryd (a thousand things)
located 20 kilometres south-east of Oslo. Opened in 1995, Viking Land
was invested with great expectations by its creators, NorgesParken ASA.
A two-year market research and planning phase preceded the construc-
tion of the site and forecasts of numbers interested in visiting it were
in the region of 300,000 (placing it on the same scale as Jorvik). An
investment of 45 million Norwegian Krner ($4.9 million) was made
on this basis, but the reality proved disappointing with only 100,000
in the rst season of operation. Viking Land was conceived as a comp-
lementary, yet separate enterprise to Tusenfryd, but it is now billed as
a park within a park or two parks in one and is seen by the manage-
ment as a themed part of Tusenfryd rather than an attraction in its
own right. Despite the reduced visitor base, and consequent reduction
in investment, Viking Land is now seen as having a secure future.
Viking Land comprises two main physical components: an outdoor
re-creation of a village and an indoor multimedia auditorium known
as the mountain hall which holds a ride attraction known as Toktet.
In this the tourist takes a seat in a Viking longship and undergoes a
journey to Vinland with associated trials and tribulations: storms,
pirate attacks, and the sublime intervention of the Viking gods. Sound,
vision, and motion are used to instil this hyper-reality experience. How-
ever, the mountain hall is also the venue for corporate entertainment
and private parties. Groups pay to attend Toktet shows and Blt, Viking
style banquets, in the hall where hosts and guests dress in mock
Viking costume.
The Viking village, meanwhile, is composed of various re-created
structures from the period including a lake with a quay and ship, a
noblemans house, a marketplace, and so on. The village is populated
(besides park attendants) by people dressed in archaeologically correct
costume, all fullling roles as characters in an ongoing real-time play.
The 40 Viking staff follow roles assigned to them from a script
developed for the site by a well-known Norwegian childrens author,
Torill Thorsted-Hauger. The tourist is free to wander round this area
and interact with the Vikings they may meet. The village facilities are
also used for school visits. Many such parties visit the park to stay for a
night and a day to experience Viking life without their toothbrushes
(interview with park manager in 1999). Under the supervision of teach-
ers and trained park staff, the children try handcrafts and learn about
the history and daily life of the Viking period.
A fourth type is provided by the Viking village reconstructions.
There are a number of these at, for example, Lejre in Denmark, Hog
near Lund in Sweden, and Foteviken near Malmo, also in Sweden. The
latter is located in rural Sweden on land near to an original Viking
settlement. It is a collaborative foundation run between the County
Council of Vellinge, the Swedish Viking Explorer group, and Falster-
bonaset Museum. Additionally, private companies have been actively
sought to sponsor the project with considerable success. The site con-
sists of some 60,000 square metres bounded to the west by the sea-
shore, one kilometre from the main coastal highway. The foundation
is staffed by two categories of employee, the full-time, salaried manage-
ment and technical staff and people who are paid under an unemploy-
ment-to-work scheme by the local council. A total of 70 staff are cur-
rently employed across the two categories.
The foundation is a registered culture-institution and its aim is to
increase historical interest in the peninsula of Falsterbo with respect
to the trade and shipping carried on here in the past through edu-
cation. The focus is principally a maritime center based on the exist-
ence nearby of many maritime wrecks (the site is on the shore of a
once extremely busy maritime route in and out of the Baltic Sea).
The Foteviken maritime center seeks to locate, survey, and catalogue
maritime remains. To this end, a Viking village and replica boats are
being constructed.
The Viking site itself is entered by passing a wooden hut into an
area delineated by a grassed bund. From the entrance, one sees a pan-
oramic view over Foteviken bay and can survey the Viking village, which
itself currently has two houses and two workshops completed and a
half a dozen more under construction. The scene appears somewhat
disorganized due to the various stages of completion of the structures.
The staff are willing to talk and describe their tasks (tending crops
of linseed and woad, potting, working on part-constructed ships and
houses), or offer the tourist a chance to participate in some of the
safer activities. Tours are conducted or one may wander at leisure
through the village.
At Foteviken, the Vikings are presented as a community and there
is little evidence of war and weaponry. Women are present in numbers
and a variety of handcraft skills are demonstrated. The emphasis of
this attraction is thus rmly on a past community of people who actu-
ally belonged to this area. The shop sells produce made at the site,
including pottery, dyed wool, and metalwork, alongside t-shirts, cards,
and books with site logos and information about the Vikings.
In terms of tourism development, there are three key drawbacks to
Fotevikens performance at present. First, its early stage of develop-
ment means that its authenticity has yet to be legitimized. A second
drawback is the location of the village. Although it is not far from
Malmo and Trelleborg (large towns in this part of Sweden), the total
population in a day-trip radius is rather less than in the case of York.
This will undoubtedly change, however, with the opening of the bridge
between Denmark and Sweden in the year 2000 (Foteviken is just nine
minutes by car from the bridge). Third, in common with Jorvik, tour-
ism is not the main raison de tre behind the organization. Viking tourism
is used to support other activity, essentially archaeological work on
Viking and other historical periods.
As the fourth type, perhaps the key event associated with the current
spread of Viking heritage tourism at present is the trading fair or mar-
ket. Typically, a Viking market is essentially a craft fair or folk mar-
ket which takes place often in a rural and historically pertinent setting.
Viking markets are advertised both locally and internationally through
the use of the internet and re-enactment networks. They generally have
the backing of a local council, tourism organization or private sponsor
to provide a venue and services such as water, waste disposal, security,
and parking. The participants are costumed as of the Viking period
and sell goods which replicate, to a greater or lesser degree, styles,
patterns, materials, and techniques of the Viking period. The market,
itself, is usually accompanied by a play, combat displays, horse-riding
displays, and/or craft demonstrations. All of these attempt to replicate
the activities of the Viking period. Many markets have become estab-
lished as annual features with their own histories, attracting the same
traders and tourists from several countries each year.
All markets have a key organizer who is usually from the immediate
locality. Organizers are not necessarily recognized group leaders but
are the individuals who network with the various Viking groups and
traders throughout Europe. However, the people involved in the stag-
ing of such markets are drawn from a wide variety of economic and
social backgrounds with a range of academic and practical expertise.
Re-enactment activities vary from building replica houses and boats
through cooking or mock ghting and acting in public shows. Some
people represent warriors, some craftsmen, and others are in various
kinds of trade. The membership of individual societies may reach sev-
eral hundreds but is more commonly in the order of ten or twenty.
Most people participate on a part-time basis; however, a few do pursue
the organization of the various societies and events almost full-time.
The earliest contemporary formal market was organized at Moesgard
in Denmark in 1977. The initial idea came from Geoffrey Bibby, the
director of the local museum and Egon Hansen, the curator, who
helped run the sea scouts in Aarhus and evening classes replicating
archaeological nds. Hence, they tried to organize a show with Viking
ships and a craft market on land owned by the museum, in order to
sell some of their craft products. There was also a local Icelandic Horse
Society, which contributed a horse display. However, at rst there were
no Viking costumes. In 1984 a group of costumed Vikings from the
United Kingdom visited the market and put on a ghting display. Sub-
sequently most people have attempted to dress as Vikings.
Another informative example comes from one of the most recent
markets which has spun off from the original Moesgard event. In 1994,
Borre in Norway established its own market. Its conceiver, Olav Tom-
merstegen, had been building Viking ships for more than 20 years and
had contacts with Roskilde and Moesgard in Denmark. The market
was originally organized as a way of helping to celebrate 1,000 years
of Christianity in the area. Tommerstegen put forward to the local
council that they should also celebrate their local Viking history as
Borre is the site of important Viking burial mounds. The local Viking
league now has some 185 members and a core committee of 26 who
help to organize the market.
Authenticity and Commodication
The actual creators of the Viking heritage tourism in Europe, from
the archaeologists to the theme-park entrepreneurs, are all very much
concerned with the degree of authenticity they are putting forward.
At one end of a spectrum, there is the Viking Ships Museum at Bygdy
which presents icons of pure authenticity against which other Viking
heritage activity is constantly compared to by re-enactors, tourists, and
tourism organizers. Because museum curators and archaeologists are
more concerned with the archaeological accuracy and reliability of evi-
dence, they refute the idea that authenticity is negotiated (Robb 1998).
A minimum of interpretation and an absence of replicas reduces the
possibility of Bygdy being open to charges of inaccuracy or popu-
larism. This control also preserves the undiluted nature of the authen-
ticity offered hereoriginal archaeological material presented
unadorned and without distractions.
At the other end of the spectrum, Viking markets offer more loosely
constrained opportunities for the negotiation of authenticity.
Although the organizers do attempt to enforce a set of standards as
to what is traded and how it is presented, both the market traders and
tourists have a greater scope for interpretation. For example, at a
Viking market notions of authenticity are sometimes contested
through light-hearted banter. A Viking trader may state that a parti-
cular item is a genuine authentic replica. The tourist then asks whether
that means a Viking actually made it. Looking hurt, the trader would
respond by boldly declaring that of course he or she is a Viking. Simi-
larly, anachronistic items, such as bananas, may be used as amusing
and entertaining props. This is a more sophisticated, nuanced, and
negotiated engagement with authenticity akin to the post-tourist who
mocks the normative codes of conventional tourism. As Urry notes,
The post-tourist nds pleasure in the multitude of games that can be
played and knows that there is no authentic tourist experience
Degrees of authenticity are often consciously invoked at all the
Viking tourism sites, however. At Jorvik, tension surrounding authen-
ticity is shown in the nal phase of the ride through the excavations
left as though work is in progress, with the archaeological material in
situ and the paraphernalia of an excavation on view. The presentation
of back room aspects of archaeological investigation in the front
line of the ride is used to lend support to the authenticity and integrity
of the reconstructions. The more-than-casual tourist may sense the
irony present in aspects of Jorviks presentation. One, for all its
attempts to recreate a life-like village of the Viking Period mannequins
are used rather than real people. Two, the process of scientic investi-
gation so deliberately exhibited is reversedthe reconstruction is
viewed before the material nds upon which it is based: conclusion
before evidence. In short, authenticity at Jorvik is very much a man-
aged property of the exhibition. In addition, Jorvik makes numerous
claims to authenticity by citing academic expertise, for example:
we commissioned our experts in Viking age textiles and clothing
to give us a detailed specication of the range of clothes each individ-
ual would have worn (depending upon age, sex, status, occupation,
ethnicity, etc.) and this specication also covered weave, color, fabric
of materials to be used, all based on excavated material or contempor-
ary manuscripts. This specication was then sent to an expert in the
production of ancient textiles who uses authentic equipment and
materials to get as absolutely accurate representation of Viking age
fabric as is possible to achieve. In fact he went to such lengths, he had
to send to Nova Scotia for the correct licen [sic] to achieve the correct
color for certain lengths of cloth (Jorvik 1998).
Other types of Viking tourism also seek to claim academic expertise
to authenticate their product. At Viking Land, for instance, the mark
of authenticity is provided by two of Norways most renowned archaeol-
ogists, Helge and Anne Ingstad, who were consultants during the con-
struction of the site. However, at Viking Land there is no archaeolog-
ical site in the locality to provide a basis for the recreation nor even
any nds from the period. At the same time, however, the management
of the park is very concerned with the quality of their product and its
authenticity. This attribute is also conferred by the comprehensive stag-
ing whereby the natural world is supplemented by archaeologically
accurate structures and employees who are characters in an ongoing
story. The anachronistic association of a hyper-reality experience is
exhibited in a semi-mythical setting indoorsaway from the real
earthly world of the Vikings from which it might detract if seen in
direct juxtaposition. Authenticity is less constrained than at Jorvik, due
partly to the use of human beings rather than mannequins; but it is
still not open for negotiation as the staff are programmed with
responses to enquiry. The company is extremely concerned with the
being as authentic as possible as it fears that lowering their standards
of authenticity would also mean lower attendance gures (interview
with park manager 1999).
It was previously noted how a sense of place can also confer a sense
of authenticity in something sold there (Shenhav-Keller 1993). Jorvik
clearly uses its location to confer added authenticity and thus symbolic
value. The various markets and the village reconstruction at Foteviken
also use the historical resonance of their locality to add a sense of
importance to the event. Again, as at Jorvik, the sense of place at Fote-
viken conveys the degree of authenticity needed to sustain tourists
interests and full expectations. At Foteviken the emphasis is rmly
on a past community of people who actually belonged to this area.
The locations of Borre (beside grave mounds, in a national park) and
Moesgard (a natural setting, topographically correct for a market),
have also been deliberately chosen to confer authenticity on these
As already noted, commodication is an issue that is closely tied to
the concept of authenticity. When unbridled, it is generally perceived
as negative and something that devalues an experience or cultural
activity. As a process, it shifts things that were formerly thought of as
freely available to the local community into an economic domain
where exchange value is overt and exclusions set in (Shurmer-Smith
and Hannam 1994). However, following Appadurai (1986) it should
also be kept in mind that value is never an inherent property of objects
themselves but a judgement made about them by consumers.
At Bygdy, commodication is limited by the national importance
of the museum, the discrete nature of the museum shop, and the qual-
ity control exercised in selecting limited stock lines. At Jorvik, however,
the act of purchasing is an integral part of the heritage experience:
one has to pass through the shop and the quality of material available
is very varied.
On your way out, browse in the themed shop. Here you will nd a
wonderful array of books on the Vikings and on York, or imaginative
souvenirs, and upstairs a huge range of authentic jewellery and other
items. Why not treat yourself to a carved replica bone comb in a case,
an amber or jet necklace, a silver Viking brooch?, or an Erik Blood-
axe rules OK teeshirts (Jorvik 1999)
At Viking Land and Foteviken a shop is available but tourists are not
corralled into it and the goods sold are carefully vetted with authen-
ticity and relevance used as a quality yardstick (not green plastic as
one manager commented). At Viking Land, however, it was admitted
that they would have an exit shop were it not for stringent re regu-
lations, and former workers have criticized the park for losing credi-
bility in the face of commercial pressures.
The Viking markets, meanwhile, as well as being sites of perform-
ance, are also market places. The number and variety of traders now
attending markets would not have arisen without the commercial
opportunities they present. Although few traders make a serious living
from the proceeds of the markets, many more individuals use the pro-
ceeds to subsidize their travel and equipment costs. Although some
markets offer a fee to traders attending, most offer only the pitch and
facilities in addition to the selling opportunity.
At Viking markets, however, the practice of consumption where and
while the goods are actually being made becomes a verication of the
authenticity process. This is experienced when the object is seen to
have been made (Littrell et al 1993) or is sold by the maker. Labels
are not needed in this context, for the exchange value of the com-
modity has been seen and veried visually. But traders may emphasize
that their products are copies of actual nds or museum quality
(interview with male Viking trader, Trelleborg, July 1998).
It is frequently pointed out that the production and selling of sou-
venir commodities can be a mixed blessing. While it can be lucrative
for a host community, it may also lead to a craft product being mass
produced and becoming inauthentic and disassociated from its orig-
inal meaning. Both the Moesgard and the Borre market organizers
fear processes of commodication may lead to a standardization of
their local culture and a translation of a local phenomena into a global
one. The market at Moesgard has now reached capacity and ghts
commercialization of itself by excluding ice cream vans and other 20th
century anachronisms and vetting the goods sold as belonging to the
Viking period by virtue of style, manufacture, and composition.
Indeed, one may criticize other markets for being merely a bait to
bring folk in range of their coca-cola machines (interview with Bibby,
Moesgard, 1998).
However, while the Viking market is a liminal space which invokes
the carnivalesque, at the same time it also embraces the dominant
order in its celebration of the commodity form. The Viking market
thus has important resonances with the contemporary car boot sale
which Gregson and Crewe (1997:109) argue is a space in which:
the disciplined social order of xed prices, the non-contestable, non-
negotiable social relations of retailersalespersonconsumer and the
trading regulations designed to protect the consumer are all sus-
pended as the consumer transforms into this hybrid entityvendor,
buyer, stroller, gazer, and even entertainer.
Viking markets present something of a contradiction in terms of com-
modication and authenticity because although their raison de tre is sell-
ing, they aim for a highly authentic experience. The problem is recog-
nized and acknowledged. As one trader condemed her experience,
Moesgard is crap, it is over. Too many plastic tents, bananas, and
accordion music in the market. For me it is nished (interview with
female Viking market trader, Foteviken, in 1998).
But the commercial aspects of Viking markets, as MacDonald (1997)
points out in the context of Gaelic tourism, can also be thought of as
something which is being actively used for the development of local
culture, intensifying the traditional rather than diluting it. In his
account of the construction of a replica Viking ship, Koivusalo tries to
convince locals of the worthiness of the project by explaining how
the construction of a Viking ship could bring life back to the villages
handicrafts Koivusalo (1998:65). There are now many examples of
products and crafts that were lost or forgotten but which have been
revived because of the interest and commercial opportunities created
at Viking markets. The Viking markets can use the commercial aspects
to educate local people as well as tourists in their own history and
crafts. The main aims of the Borre market, like many others, is to
involve local families in their living traditions. They seek to educate
them in their own history, craftsmanship, and culture, and create a
bigger cultural happening as Robert Larsson, the current Borre
Viking leader put it. They also aim to develop practical historical
research, by taking their history seriously (interview with Larsson,
Oslo 1999.)
This paper has demonstrated that Viking heritage tourism is a sig-
nicant European phenomenon in terms of its scale, its inter-
nationality, and its contribution to local economic and cultural ident-
ities. It also outlined a number of case studies of the different types
of Viking tourism, from museum to theme park. The holy grail of
authenticity is much sought after in each of the types of Viking heritage
tourism, although negotiated in different, sometimes ambivalent, ways.
Artefacts like those displayed at Bygdy present unchanging reference
points against which other types of Viking heritage tourism can be
compared. The negotiation of authenticity is not an option at a
museum, but in a Viking market it is almost inevitable and even part of
the fun of the experience. The search for authenticity is not necessarily
diminished once the concept moves away from pure absolute ideals.
Commodication at museums, heritage centers, and theme parks is a
key factor in the negotiation of authenticity, as the goods sold are often
the markers of authentication process. On the other hand, at the
Viking markets, commodication can also be seen as a process which
is both resisted and embraced in order to develop local cultural values.
The conclusion may now begin to sketch some further ideas, notably
towards notions of performance and regulation that are beyond the
scope of the present paper. The Viking market can be seen as an essen-
tially heterotopic space which dees exact denition, whereas the
other types of Viking heritage tourism approximate to what Edensor
calls enclavic space (1998:47), space which is becoming more regu-
lated, functional, and bounded so that it facilitates maximum con-
sumption and transit. While museums, heritage centers, and theme
parks manufacture and design a predictable, controlled, and primarily
visual stimulation, they also reduce the possibility of transgressive prac-
tices through policing and surveillance. Instead, as at Jorvik, a pleasur-
able environment in which to purchase is created, and both distrac-
tions and points of entry and exit are reduced to facilitate directional
movement. As at Viking Land, any performance is carefully staged,
designed, and scripted.
Viking markets, on the other hand, have more contingent and local
forms of planning and regulation. But, as Edensor notes, Rather than
security guards, video surveillance and policing, local power-holders
exercise policies of exclusion and control (1998:56). Those attending
Viking markets have to pass examinations of the standards of presen-
tation and authenticity of their goods and if they fail they are barred
from trading. With greater numbers being attracted to events, the
selection of participants and the surveillance of authenticity in terms
of costumes, merchandise, and tents has become much more central.
Despite this regulation, Viking markets can be viewed as an attempt
to replicate all the fun of medieval fairs; and, while they are not true
carnivals, they are carnivalesque performances which emphasize the
body and bodily processes, the community, and their relationship with
their environment (Bakhtin 1984). The Viking markets are transgress-
ive spaces where people can come to play and where the conventions
of retailing are modied. Performance, spectacle, laughter, and brows-
ing are all important but also contested. The professional archaeol-
ogists who rst conceived of the market at Moesgard, however, argued
that costumes should not be included at the event. Bibby argued that
costumes were pushing authenticity too far as it was beginning to
make it a drama and not a reality (interview Moesgard, 1998). How-
ever, since then both participants and tourists have viewed costumes
as a vital aspect of the market which adds both authenticity and enjoy-
ment. Indeed costumes have now become the norm at markets and
this standard is now a yardstick for measuring the overall authenticity
of an event.
Clearly further research into developing Viking heritage tourism
needs to be completed. For the moment, however, it should be noted
that in all the types of Viking heritage tourism discussed, it seems that
organizers and tourists are extremely aware of the limitations of what
they are attempting to achieve and the constraints they are under with
respect to authenticity and commodication.
AcknowledgementsThe authors would like to thank Tom Mordue for his insightful com-
ments on earlier versions of the paper. They express their immense gratitude to all those
people involved with Viking heritage for their time and patience when being interviewed.
They would also like to thank the University of Sunderland for funding.
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