Vasa Museet: War and Peace

When we tour historic sites, it is easy to get lost in the excitement of the drama and forget the real lives within these stories. Museums preserve and honor history; respect is bestowed to lives lost. Museums allow for research to educate the public. The Vasa Museet created the perfect balance by showcasing the wonder of the warship’s preservation, but also bringing a peace to the lost souls while educating all visitors.

The Vasa was a magnificent warship created in the 17th century. This warship was ordered by the King of Sweden for the war with Poland-Lithuania. True to the warships of the time, the Vasa was decorated to honor the pride of Sweden and taunt their enemies. The first picture of a warrior signifies strength and power, while the second picture is a Polish Royal in a submissive pose.

In the Stockholm navy yard, between 1626-1628, the Vasa rose as a mighty hero, but oh, how the mighty have fallen. During her maiden voyage, only 1400 yards from shore, the Vasa foundered and sank. Salvaged in the 1960s, nearly all of the Vasa was recovered in tact. The ship may be visited in the Vasa Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.

This was the historic information I knew upon entering the museum today, with only one, not so small, exception. In my research, I missed the loss of lives that August day in 1628. Families of the crew were allowed to begin the maiden voyages of warships and disembark at a port nearby. The Vasa was no exception, so women and children were aboard. Sadly, when the Vasa went down, 30 perished, trapped in the ship.

Through new technology, some of the remains found with the Vasa are no longer lost. With science, the faces of the deceased are able to be identified. Ivar, a 40-60 year old man, is seen below how he may have appeared almost 400 years ago.


The recreation of Ivar is very scientific, but also includes some degree of estimation. While the skull determines how the eyes, ears, and nose are angled and placed, the exact size and shape are guessed. Hair color and eyes are estimated to the most common at the time (for Ivar this is blonde and blue eyed). See a short video of how Ivar was recreated for the Vasa Museet.

Researchers are continually faced with the moral issues of excavating archeological locations, especially when it involves loss of lives. Now, with technological advancements, science is allowing us a personal view into history. In this way, history comes alive and touches our hearts as well as our minds.

Tomorrow is our last full day of what has been an incredible journey to Scandinavia. We will begin our day at the Royal Palace, so…see you at the palace!




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