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One moment you are in 21st century York. The next, you are in a Viking camp in the year AD872.

That is the discombobulating experience awaiting visitors to a major new exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum in York.

Put on the Viking-design virtual reality mask – and suddenly you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of a Viking army camp in Torksey, Lincolnshire.

Thanks to state of the art CGI technology you find yourself among resting warriors as they waited out the winter months preparing to conquer vast swathes of England.

CGI technology

The VR masks have been created by researchers at the University of York working with the museum’s digital team.

They are one of the highlights of Viking: Rediscover the Legend.

Dr Gareth Beale from York’s Centre for Digital Heritage, said: “Virtual reality allows us to engage with the past in entirely new ways.

“Using CGI technology we were able to produce a series of vignettes of Viking life which enable people to immerse themselves in archaeological interpretation.

“They can look around and explore the world as archaeologists believe it existed.”

Hoards of treasure

A close-up of some of the Vale of York Hoard, discovered by metal detectorists in 2007. Photograph: YorkMix
Viking: Rediscover the Legend

Yorkshire Museum, York

May 19-Nov 5, 2017

Museum admission: £7.50, children free

More details

The most significant Viking treasure hoards ever discovered in Britain are also on display together for the first time at the exhibition – a joint venture between York Museums Trust and the British Museum.

They include the Vale of York Viking Hoard, the Bedale Hoard and the Cuerdale Hoard, the largest Viking Hoard ever found outside of Russia.

Featuring some of the most exciting Anglo-Saxon and Viking discoveries ever made, the exhibition reveals how the Vikings transformed life in Britain.

But it wasn’t just the indigenous Brits whose lives changed.

“We look at the way Britain was transformed by the Vikings – and how the Vikings were changed by the British,” said Andrew Woods, curator of numismatics at the York Museums Trust.

“They adopted and adapted British culture as well.”

Thousand-year-old selfie

An image of a Viking carved by a Viking. An early selfie? Photograph: YorkMix

The Vikings, for example, started using British currency – coins – as well as their own, hacksilver. They married Brits, and adopted Christianity.

There is also evidence of how wide the Vikings’ trading network was. On display are both a silk cap from the Baltic region and Islamic coins, each found in Britain.

“York was at one end of a network that stretches right across Europe,” Andrew said.

The main image on the posters for the exhibition is the close up of a Viking bone plaque which was found in York. Possibly worn as a brooch, it shows a carving of a Viking by a Viking.

“It’s a thousand year old selfie!” Andrew said.

Endorsed by BBC’s Alice

Prof Alice Roberts, pictured with the York Helmet at the exhibition. Photograph: Anthony Chappel-Ross

Professor Alice Roberts officially opened the exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum on Thursday night (May 18).

The presenter of BBC TV shows including Coast and The Day The Dinosaurs Died met curators for a tour of the exhibition before sharing her thoughts on some of her favourite artefacts on show.

She had heard about the exhibition following visiting the museum last year to film a Viking documentary which will be aired in the summer.

Alice said: “The Vikings are such an iconic part of our heritage and history.

“They tend to be portrayed as either bloodthirsty raiders or mercantile traders, but they were much more complex and interesting.

“This unique exhibition brings together objects which help us to understand them and their world.”

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