Preparations are in full swing for "The Vikings", the large exhibition being mounted by the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (Museum of Prehistory and Early History) in the Martin Gropius Bau. On 31 July, as part of the exhibition installation, a ten-by-twelve metre sail was hung in the building's atrium. Beneath the sail the original Viking ship, Roskilde 6, is being assembled for the exhibition. "The sail will hang above the ship to convey the overall impression of a Viking vessel," explains curator Bernhard Heeb. "We want to exploit all the possibilities offered by the atrium to display the ship to best effect."
Now decommissioned, the impressive sail once belonged to the Seehengst von Glendalough, a replica of the Viking ship, Skuldelev 2, which will be anchored on the Spree during the exhibition, from 6 to 14 September. As the original would have been, the sail is made of linen and dyed with ochre. It was in use for more than 6 years - one of the voyages the Seehengst von Glendalough made with it was from Roskilde to Dublin. Clear signs of wear and tear, like sun-bleaching and repairs, add to the impression of authenticity. "We want to try to make it look as if it has the wind behind it," says Bernhard Heeb. "Perhaps we can manage that using ropes or an arrangement of rods."
At 37 metres long, the Roskilde 6 is the largest preserved Viking ship to have been found so far. It was discovered in Denmark in the late 1990s and conserved by the National Museum. It will take up the whole atrium, with its prow and stern even encroaching on the surrounding galleries. Two platforms will allow visitors to view the ship from close up and get a feeling for what it must have been like to be a Viking raider.