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OpenArch Conference 2012 at Foteviken (SE)

Monday, 24 September, 2012 to Thursday, 27 September, 2012
Organised by: 
Björn M Buttler Jakobsen
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 

Postcards home from Foteviken (previously published in IMTAL Insights)

What better way to express the epic happenings of the 2012 OpenArch/EXARC/IMTAL conference than through the words of those who attended it

 ‘Learning is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire’.

There were certainly many metaphorical fires being lit during Emily’s inspirational workshop on the Wednesday afternoon. The title of the session was 'Search for the Story' and it began in one of the conference rooms. We split into six groups of six -  with people we didn't know before Foteviken.  After some excellent warm-up activities, Emily introduced our task of devising a performance set in the Viking village with at least 2 of the following aspects: audience participation, song or dance.

We zipped up our coats, stepped out into the crisp Swedish air and were immediately inspired by our surroundings. Certainly in my group, we were buzzing with ideas and soon found we had to curb conversation to achieve our goal in time.  On previous courses, I have completed similar exercises with only 5 or 10 minutes to plan, it was refreshing to have almost an hour to discuss and share ideas.
Each group was given a theme and ours was 'Loss of innocence'. (Naturally we decided that our performance should include a time traveller who had been sent to the year 900 to discover the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of King Bjorn - what else?)

We settled on making it a promenade between different characters' houses, where they would each proclaim their innocence.  As usual, I was struck by the talent and creativity of all involved; each performances was brilliantly different and I was reminded by Emily's words at the start 'the more rules you have, the more creative you have to be'.
It was wonderful to see the village setting being brought to life in such imaginative ways.  In these times of cuts and austerity, I’m sure many of us are increasingly being asked to justify why a conference is worth spending money on.  For me, the setting of a conference can 'make' or 'break' it and, although Foteviken definitely 'made' it, I didn't feel the village was referenced enough during the week. I mean, we could have been stuck in a conference room in a Grimsby shopping arcade for example, not that there’s anything wrong with Grimsby, but we were on the edge of Baltic Sea in an incredible, lovingly reconstructed Viking village. Can I request that, on the next IMTAL conference, we have a guided tour of our surroundings at the beginning (after coffee and introductions) in order to let us know the significance of the place and to provide context? 

Emily’s workshop reminded me how the environment can inspire us, educate us and entertain us; I only wish we had done a similar activity at the beginning of the week too.
Huge thanks to Bjorn, Sven and everyone else for a magical conference.
Long live Foteviken!
Josephine Dowding - Guernsey

Vikings and Academic Rock Stars: Adventures of a Canadian at Fotevikens Museum

Although I have attended several conferences in Canada, the memorable days I spent at Fotevikens Museum were my first overseas conference experience.  While I was there, one of the things I learned was that people in other cultures agree that as museum employees, performers, or historical interpreters, we all share a common goal of story telling...

Once upon a time, I arrived at Hyllie station near Malmö, Sweden, tired, hungry and frustrated that the Canadian cell phone I had expressly requested  to be opened for use in Scandinavia was, in fact, not working.  Thankfully, a clerk in a small store lent me her phone and I was able to locate what would become easily recognizable over the upcoming week as the OpenArch white van.

At this point, I met our reliable drivers and other participants: Lindsey, Chris, Natalia and Lara.  We chatted in the van about our travels, our lives back home and our expectations about the conference.  I’m not sure I had any expectations beyond hoping that I would get a chance to nap that afternoon! 

That very first night, I soon met more interesting people willing to share stories of their own, who made a young woman, six time zones away from home, feel most welcome and convinced, from day one that she wanted to become a Viking!

Throughout the conference, I particularly appreciated being in the company of like-minded individuals who talked so passionately about the same crazy things that I enjoy discussing in my work and academic life: Theatre in Museums!  Sadly, it is not a common practice in Canada’s Capital anymore.  In fact, I believe that the Canadian War Museum is the only national museum that currently uses theatre as an educational tool with students.

Listening to Tony Jackson present was for me akin to watching a rock star perform!  His research in theatre as education was instrumental in helping me complete my M.A. Thesis and seeing him present some of his theories live brought a breath of fresh air to my own ideas. 

I enjoyed presenting part of my research and sharing some of my professional experience. Most visitors I have interacted with have asked how my academic past in theatre is relevant to working in a museum about war. Even after a guided tour, during which I would have spent 45 minutes as an entertainer and educator, most visitors did not see the interaction as a performance. Yet first-person and third-person interpretation has always been, to me, an obvious form of performance, and situating the visitor more clearly in a performative acting/non-acting continuum adds a certain depth to their analysis. 

Even though I can happily discuss theory and examples, what I most prefer is “to do”.  And so, I thoroughly enjoyed becoming a second-person interpreter when Steve Howe as Ernest Rutherford invited us to dance around like electrons in hula hoops as our Tuesday-morning group learnt about the composite of an atom through interactive theatre techniques.  I eagerly participated in Past Pleasures’ first-person workshop that afternoon and in Emily’s group activity the following day, when we applied the various techniques that we had learned or brought with us performing short skits in the village for the other groups.  Some of the most effective techniques, where I found myself emotionally engaged, were the use of mime and song.  However, I will never forget Jamie the Jumper from Jumpington (James Eagleton) or Lee Wolstenholme’s epic Scandinavian-esc title translated simply into “The Journey.”

This use of humour is something else that I will take away with me from the conference.  Various presenters on Monday touched on the importance of humour as a tool in volunteer management.  Speaking from the perspective of someone who has supervised 60 ex-military volunteers (mostly 65 years old or older), I can certainly attest to the usefulness of humour and flexibility!  I found that on the whole people’s open-mindedness at the conference allowed for bridges (if I can borrow Anna Farthing’s term) to be made between participants, where future colleagues were introduced, ideas for potential projects were planted and genuine friendships were made.

This open environment allowed for learning to take place on all levels: in the conference rooms as we listened to speakers, during the breaks as we crammed in a quick conversation (that never seemed long enough!), at dinner time when we shared cultural experiences through song, game and social interaction.

Somehow, I feel that this amazing experience at Fotevikens will be unlike any other conference I will experience in my life.  For this gift, I am most grateful to the organisers and staff for all their hard work in making such a unique experience possible.  I would like to thank the presenters and facilitators for being intellectual watering cans, and I would like to thank the participants for sharing this experience with me,  for asking important questions, for engaging with me intellectually, and not least of all, for laughing alongside me at all the various shenanigans we engaged in.

I made it back to Canada after I traveled up the west coast of Sweden and into Norway.  Weeks later, I sit here in Ottawa, an ocean away from a lovely place called Fotevikens (but under the same northern stars) and I weave the beautiful memories I made with the people I met, the practices I learned and the ideas I found there into my story.

Ashlee Beattie – Canada

Highlighting our past with knowledge and a human touch.

The recent OpenArch/IMTAL Conference in Sweden was a great chance to visit a country I had never seen and refresh my interest in museum theatre. However, it ended up being so much more than that. Under the endlessly patient care of Bjorn, Sven and his team we had a fantastic time and came away inspired, re-invigorated - and humbled!

Many of the delegates involved in the OpenArch project are members of EXARC. (Experimental Archaeology in Open Air Museums).

If I understand it correctly, members of EXARC and the participants in the Open Arch Project strive to recreate the past using their knowledge and experience. They replicate the processes and lifestyle of our ancestors. Some IMTAL members are also experts in this field, but I think the majority of us use theatrical presentations and storytelling to bring sites, stories and objects to life.

Bringing the two organisations together by linking OpenArch to IMTAL in a joint conference was master-stroke which made me revaluate how much more we could do  ‘bringing to life’ our artefacts.

For example, we have a coin mould discovered by archeologists working on a Roman site in the Island. It sits – often overlooked - in a display case with a number of other objects.

So, to highlight this object and other aspects of Roman Guernsey we wrote a story based on the known historical facts about a ship that floundered in local waters. We invented an arrogant Captain for the stricken Roman ship who tricks the Islanders. To get their own back they pay him off with counterfeit coins – made of course from our coin mould! The story is performed by members of the ‘Guernsey History in Action Company’ (GHIAC) founded around 15 years ago as part of my education work.

But there is another story that we don’t pursue. How was this mould made? Did they use the same clay as was used to make the roof tiles that were discovered on the same site with paw prints intact? Which metals would have been used for the counterfeit coins and what was the process required? Which group of Islanders were in this business? Were they a clandestine group or approved by the local authorities? Was everyone dishonest or just a select few? Can we re-create the workshop? Show how it was done? Invent some likely characters and design a scenario?

Some of the answers lie with the archaeologists but some can only be surmised. The story behind the story, and then the story behind that story, we have a long way to go!

Lynne Ashton - Guernsey

“Wonderful hospitality from our Foteviken hosts at the EXARC/IMTAL conference.

The organisation, the varied programme, the accommodation, food and drink were top class and the warm, friendly welcome was much appreciated.

We worked hard and played hard ... like true Vikings!

It was an unforgettable experience, we made many new friends and we hope to meet up with them all and share more ideas again very soon.

This is what makes membership of a group like IMTAL so important and inspiring.”

Lee Wolstenholme, Manchester

Wonderful experience: EXARC and IMTAL should definitively start some projects together!

Lara Comis, Italy

IMTAL provided a very welcome input of creativity and playfulness during the what was expected to be a standard OpenArch conference. I think the open air museums learned a lot about theatre and performance and at the very least all of us have greatly increased our list of Contacts. The next OpenArch conference in Archeon, Netherlands on 22 - 26 April 2013 will be about the Visitor and the Visitors experience. It would be lovely to see you all again, You IMTAL lot were great!

Hannah Fraza, Netherlands



Sunday September 23rd - Arrival Day

Morning / afternoonfly to Copenhagen or Malmö

Monday September 24th -  Day 1
For all participants: OpenArch, IMTAL, EXARC, NOOAM, Swedish Heritage (Svenskt kulturarv) and others

09.30 - 09.40Yngve Petersson, Chairman of the Cultural Department of Region Scania: Welcome & introductions. Video here
 Steve Burrow, Chairman of EXARC: EXARC and archeological Open-Air museum in Europe. Video here
 Lars Amréus, Executive Director of the Swedish National Heritage Board: How to make cultural heritage alive. Video here
 Peter Aronsson, Linköping University: Why, when and how does the past become an engaging heritage site? Video here
 Per Karsten and Jerry Rosengren, The Historical museum of Lund:
From traditional museum to the museum for the future. Video here
12:00 - 13:00Lunch
 Peter Lindbom, The Fullerö Park project: The planned large theme park about Vikings at Fullerö in Sweden. Video here
 Henrik Zipsane, The Museum “Jamtli Historieland”: Cooperation all levels from a management point of view - working with Staff and Volunteers. Video here
 Anders Ödman, Lunds University: Archeology and volunteers. Video here
 Kaare Johannessen, Middelaldercentret, Denmark: About working with volunteers. Video here
 Catharina Oksen, Middelaldercentret, Denmark: The opportunities that volunteers provide for the Archaeological Open-Air museums. Video here
18:00 Bus transport to evening dinner on board the medieval Cog in the channel of Falsterbo.

Tuesday September 25th - Day 2
For all participants: OpenArch, IMTAL, EXARC, NOAM, Svenskt Kulturarv and others

8:30 Coffee
9:00 Plenary (SPACE 1): Welcome & introductions to IMTAL, live interpretation & museum theatre.
Speakers & 'provocateurs':
Björn Jakobsen (Director, Fotevikens Viking Museum), Dr Anna Farthing (IMTAL-Europe Chair), Prof. Tony Jackson (Manchester University) & Mark Wallis (Director, Past Pleasures, UK).
Back to the Future: What is live interpretation, where did it come from and
why does it matter? Tony Jackson interviews the grandfather of live interpretation in Sweden, Arthur Hazelius (as presented by Mark Wallis), about the origins of living history. Eager to know where live interpretation is heading after his time, Mr. Hazelius will then turn the tables on Tony Jackson and ask him about living history in the 21st century. (Jackson aided and abetted by Anna Farthing). Video here (part 1), Video here (part 2)

10:30 Coffee

11:00 Divide into three groups for participation in pre-selected workshops & panel presentations.

Ashlee Beatie (Canada): Interpreting the Interpreter: Is Live Historical Interpretation at National Museums and Historic Sites Theatre? Video hereAnna Farthing (UK): Performance, place and space. Video hereAnders Åborg, Army Museum of Stockholm (Sweden): Ten years of history alive – the use of live interpretation at Stockholm’s Army Museum.
  WORKSHOP (1 hour):
Steve Howe, Lee Wolstenholme & Jamie Eagleton (MOSI, UK): The challenges of researching and developing performance pieces at a science & industry museum: ‘Rutherford’ and ‘Manchester, the Romans and the first “industrial revolution”. Video here Lara Comis (EXARC) & Natalia Comis (Archeostorica APS, Italy): ‘The Fabula Atellana’ – popular entertainment in Ancient Rome. An introduction to its character & improvisation techniques. Video here

12:30 Lunch

13:30 Plenary (SPACE 1):
Guest speaker: Chris Gidlow (Manager of Live Interpretation, Historic Royal Palaces, UK): Emotional engagement with intangible cultural heritage through live interpretation. Video here

14.15 Divide into three groups for participation in pre-selected workshops & panel presentations.

workshop element:
Ceri Jones (UK): You could see it in your mind: which is more effective, first or 3rd person interpretation…? Video hereLucian Branea, Bistra Choleva-Laleva, Adrian Ciglenean & Daniela Dumbraveanu (Romania/Bulgaria): Participatory theatre in museums and archaeological / historic sites – the Labyrintheme project approach.Mark Wallis (UK): 'And Who Are You Supposed To Be?: being first at First Person. Video here (part 1), Video here (part 2)
Brenda Winter-Palmer (UK: Ulster): Museum Theatre and Education for Mutual Understanding in Northern Ireland 
Foteini Venieri (Greece): Museum theatre in Greece: perspectives on site interpretation. Video here  

16:00 Coffee

16:30 - 17:30 Plenary (Space 1):
Final round-up: Summaries & questions arising from day’s events.
(Divide into small groups, mixing IMTAL and OpenArch to pool ideas/impressions/questions/future projects, then ultra-brief presentations and plenary discussion. Anna Farthing chair). Video here

20:00 Grand Viking Feast in the Long Hall

Wednesday September 26th - Day 3
For Members of OpenArch and IMTAL only

9:30 - 10:45OpenArch only: Steering Committee meetingFor the Non Steering Committee Members (OpenArch and IMTAL):
meeting and trip to sites of interest in the municipality (by bus)
10:45 - 11:00Coffee
11:00 - 12:45OpenArch only: Steering Committee meeting
12:45 - 13:45Lunch
13:45 - 15:30Workshop OpenArch and IMTAL: Live interpretation Creative workshop on site interpretation: The Search for the Story
led by Emily Capstick (UK)
A practical, creative workshop exploring the Foteviken site for stories and finding them; and looking at different ways of telling the story and sharing it with each other in an informal, supportive, fun environment. Video here (part 1), Video here (part 2)
15:30 - 15:45Coffee
15:45 - 17:30Workshop IMTAL and OpenArch: Live interpretation
19:00 Official dinner hosted by the municipality of Vellinge.

Thursday September 27th - Departure Day
For Members of OpenArch and IMTAL only

10:00Bus leave for excursion to Denmark: Sagnlandet Lejre and Roskilde Vikingeskibsmuseum and ending at Kastrup Airport at 15.00. Coffee and a small picnic lunch will be served at the bus (this trip is optional for IMTAL and guest speakers), only a few places for other persons are available on the bus. All bus passengers pay € 20 cash per person for this transport to the airport at Kastrup.
15:00Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen.



Monday, Conference day
Monday, Conference day
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Monday, Conference day
A quick look at the medieval Cog before...
A quick look at the medieval Cog before...
A quick look at the medieval Cog before...
Evening dinner in the previous Cog museum in...
Grand Viking Feast in the Long Hall
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Sven Rosborn guiding conference participants...
Official dinner hosted by the municipality...
Official dinner hosted by the municipality...
Official dinner hosted by the municipality...