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Overview
Canadian Museum of History
Cranbrook Museum
Full Circle
Grey Roots Museum
+ Haffenreffer Museum
+ L'Anse aux Meadows, NHSC
Norstead
Peterborough Centennial Museum
+ Royal Ontario Museum
+ Upper Canada Village
+ Woodstock Museum
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Nothing can bring the past to life like costumed historic interpreters surrounded with the personal goods and tools of the Viking Age. Artefacts that seem puzzling when seen in an exhibit suddenly become clear when seen in use or in the hand. The abstract becomes obvious when placed in context, world view is made manifest by an examination of material culture. The interplay of materials, tools and technique are easily related to form and function when in the hands of a skilled demonstrator.

Living History - What does it look like?

DARC focuses on daily life in the Viking Age. A physical presentation typically centres on a 'camp', with costumed interpreters surrounded by a collection of replica objects consisting of domestic goods, tools, and storage. Out of doors, the site is marked by tents containing beds and a fire pit with cooking equipment. Individuals will be outfitted with the tools of their various trades. All of the objects, from clothing to tents, are based on specific artifact prototypes. image
Individual members of DARC have prepared detailed characterizations based on personal research into the Viking Age. These characters are the 'common man': artisans, merchants or farmers typical of the Norse. The characters all represent real interests and skills. (The person portraying the blacksmith actually has experience working at the forge for example.) For every museum presentation, an overall scenario is written, and details of the characters are adjusted to create a plausible shared background. image
To the public, the members of DARC present themselves as actual voices from the past, with shared experiences as a group and direct personal histories. Any conversation begins at this 'role playing' level of historic interpretation. The interpretive level used is then shifted to suit the needs of individual visitors. Some people delight in talking to a character from 1000 years ago, others are more comfortable with more of a modern commentary. Interpreters are able to handle a wide range of topics and level of detail. Individual members of DARC have also developed considerable expertise in specialized areas. image
For our outdoors presentations, DARC normally starts its public day in costume and surrounded by the piles of our goods. (Imagine we have just unloaded the ship.) First task is to set up the camp. Putting up tents, assembling beds and hauling water are all great ways to directly involve the public (especially children). image
Once camp is set, its time to set up the cooking fire and start on lunch. Normally this meal consists of a simple soup combined with dried or easily transportable 'nibble food'. All this allows for easy discussion of food and cooking methods. Interpreters will try to grab a bite between conversations as they can. image
Meanwhile, other camp members will be setting up various tools for small scale demonstrations:
  • antler and bone carving
  • soapstone carving
  • spinning
  • natural dyes
  • game playing
  • armour try on
  • simple musical instruments
  • leather work
  • wood work
  • coin minting
Other larger scale demonstrations can be mounted:
  • pewter casting
  • weaving
  • blacksmithing
The exact mixture of physical demonstrations depends on which artisan interpreters are present. Through all of this, the public is encouraged to become directly involved.
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The use of replicas, although still historically accurate, allows the public to personally handle tools and materials. In many cases they can actually try a technique or help out with a task. image
Overall, it is this flexibility in communication and physical presentation that is the great value of a living history presentation by DARC. The visitor can interact with the interpreter on a wide range of levels, from simply watching a demonstration from a distance to sharing the latest gossip. Experiences can be given through all the senses and intellectual levels, even language barriers can be surmounted by use of physical objects. image


A team with proven experience!

DARC has provided skilled and well equipped interpreters for special programs for all of the major events and exhibitions that marked the 'Viking Millennium' in Canada. No other group of re-enactors has as much accumulated museum experience:

'Norse Encampment' - L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC - 1996
Founding members of DARC (Darrell Markewitz, Vandy Simpson & Neil Peterson) formed the core of the team of interpreters for this two week demonstration of the practicality of a living history program for the site to Parks Canada.

'Norstead' - Viking Trial Tourism Assn. - 2000
DARC was the only Canadian re-creation group selected to take part in this major event to mark the 1000 years since the founding of the Norse outpost in Vinland. A group of 14 traveled to Newfoundland for this 6 day presentation.

'Full Circle - First Contact' - Woodstock Museum - 2001
DARC provided several special event presentations related to this major Canadian traveling exhibit. As well as demonstrating craft techniques, group members loaned replicas for use in the Museum's educational programing.

'Reflection of the Conquest' - Woodstock Museum - 2002
Once again DARC returned to the Woodstock Museum to provide a special event demonstration as background to a presentation of the replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. A special focus was made on textile production for this exhibit.

'Master Mariners' - Owen Sound Museum - 2002
DARC provided a special event demonstration as background to a presentation of this touring exhibit. A special focus was made on navigation for this exhibit.

'Vikings - North Atlantic Saga' - Canadian Museum of Civilization - 2002
DARC assembled a large encampment on the grounds of the CMC over the August Civic Holiday weekend. Three complete 'camps', consisting of hundreds of replicas was staffed by 15 interpreters.

'The Vikings are coming!' - Haffenreffer Museum, Brown University - 2003
The Haffenreffer mounted this small presentation with an accompanying lecture schedule to introduce the local area to Norse Culture. This presentation included demonstrations of bronze casting including the casting of Norse broaches.

'World of the Norse' - Cranbrook Institute of Science - 2003
To accompany their exhibit of Full Circle - First Contact, the Institute comissioned an additional 1200 square foot exhibit. Designed by Darrell Markewitz this exhibit featured reproduction and replica aretfacts. DARC mounted a special weekend presentation to accompany these exhibits including lectures on a variety of topics.

'The Vikings return!' - Haffenreffer Museum, Brown University - 2004
Building on its success the previous year the museum expanded the presentation. Additional DARC members set up interpretive stations, and lectures were provided to increase the lecture sequence.

'The Vikings return again!' - Haffenreffer Museum, Brown University - 2006
After a one year hiatus the museum is once again expanded its presentation. Additional DARC members set up interpretive stations, and lectures were provided to increase the lecture sequence.

'Vikings: Master Mariners, Traders, Colonists and Artisans' - Peterborough Centennial Museum and Archives - 2007
In the winter of 2007/8 the Peterborough Centennial Museum and Archives mounted an exhibit of the Manitoba Museum's Vikings: Master Mariners. This exhibit was expanded significantly and shown as Vikings: Master Mariners, Traders, Colonists and Artisans. The exhibit was mounted from Oct 20, 2007 to Jan 20, 2008. DARC was invited in to present an interpretive program. We also provided a large number of reproductions for the expanded exhibit.

'Family Day' - Royal Ontario Museum - 2012
In the spring of 2012 the Royal Ontario Museum mounted a day for the public to interact with archaeology on a number of levels. DARC was asked to provide both costumed interpreters and uncostumed experimentalists. The interpreters were to discuss specific aspects of Viking life in our usual style of floating between first and third person interpretation. The experimentalists were to discuss how the research that underlies our work is conducted and where experimental archaeology fits within our research program.

'Archaeology Day' - Royal Ontario Museum - 2013
In the spring of 2013 the Royal Ontario Museum mounted a day for the public to interact with archaeology on a number of levels. DARC was asked to provide both costumed interpreters and uncostumed experimentalists. The interpreters were to discuss specific aspects of Viking life in our usual style of floating between first and third person interpretation. The experimentalists were to discuss how the research that underlies our work is conducted and where experimental archaeology fits within our research program.

'Medieval Festival' - Upper Canada Village - 2013
Each year Upper Canada Village takes a step to the side from its Canadian Settlement timeline to host a Medieval festival. We were asked to provide a viking element for this three day festival including particularly their education day for the students on Monday. DARC was asked to provide our usual style of floating between first and third person interpretation in stations that demonstrated textiles, blacksmithing, bead making, and domestic activities.

'Medieval Festival' - Upper Canada Village - 2014
Each year Upper Canada Village takes a step to the side from its Canadian Settlement timeline to host a Medieval festival. We were asked to provide a viking element for this three day festival including particularly their education day for the students on Monday. DARC was asked to provide our usual style of floating between first and third person interpretation in stations that demonstrated textiles, blacksmithing, bead making, and domestic activities.

'Medieval Festival' - Upper Canada Village - 2015
Each year Upper Canada Village takes a step to the side from its Canadian Settlement timeline to host a Medieval festival. We were asked to provide a viking element for this three day festival including particularly their education day for the students on Monday. DARC was asked to provide our usual style of floating between first and third person interpretation in stations that demonstrated textiles, blacksmithing, bead making, and domestic activities.

Interested in Discussing Details?

Darrell Markewitz - organizes DARC's museum presentations and serves as the museum contact.
He created the 'Viking Encampment' program for Parks Canada at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC, and the 'World of the Norse' exhibit for the Cranbrook Institute of Science.
He worked on the educational aspects of 'Full Circle- First Contact' and 'Vikings - North Atlantic Saga' as well as providing staff training and consulting on special programing for a number of the participating institutions.

email: dark@warehamforge.ca

Darrell Markewitz
Interpretive Program Designer
Hamlet of Wareham
RR # 2 - Proton Station, Ontario
N0C 1L0 Canada
(519) 923-9219

      Updated: 09 Oct, 2015.
Text © Darrell Markewitz, 2006
Photographs © Individual artists
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