Still carried out to this day at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, the construction of clinker-built wooden boats now must be secured and preserved for future generations thanks to its new-found UNESCO status.

The Nordic boatbuilding tradition 

In December 2021, the Nordic "Klinkbådstraditioner" was included on UNESCO's representative list of the inalienable, intangible cultural heritage of humanity. 

This was the culmination of years of work honoring such activity during the Viking Age and in recent years at centers such as Roskilde.

A large twin-city conference will now take place on September 21 and 22 in Roskilde and nearby Holbæk. Being staged under the theme of "Protection Through Use," the event will focus on future Nordic cooperation. 

The second day will see the so-called "KlinkbådsCharter2023" be presented for adoption. This charter will form the basis for a common strategy to protect the Nordic clinker boat traditions.

Because inclusion on UNESCO's list is binding, with their signature on the nomination, each Nordic Ministry of Culture will have committed to contributing to protecting and passing on this living, maritime cultural heritage to future generations.

The conference's primary purpose is to inspire each other for the future work of securing the Nordic clinker boat traditions.

The work with living cultural heritage differs from what is on display in museums – it only exists as long as it is actually used and can only be protected and preserved when people take an interest in it, know about it, and put it into practice.

The Skuldelev 3 replica, launched in May 2022 at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, showcases the rich Nordic boatbuilding traditions recently recognized by UNESCO. Photo: Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde

Sailing and craftsmanship

The conference is organized by Han Herred Havbåde, the KYSTEN federation, Kystliv Holbæk, and the Viking Ship Museum. The first day will occur at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, and the second at Kystliv Holbæk.

The Icelandic Minister for Nordic Cooperation, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, together with the chairman of the Viking Ship Museum, Tomas Breddam, and its director, Tinna Damgård-Sørensen, will open the conference on Thursday morning.

The general public can enjoy the sight of traditional Nordic wooden boats and reconstructed Viking ships on the water on Thursday, September 21, from around 4.45 pm to 7.30 pm. 

The numerous conference participants will set sail from the harbor of the Viking Ship Museum.

On Friday, September 22, the conference transforms into a clinker boat festival at Holbæk harbor, where everyone is welcome to immerse themselves in the many stands and stalls, chat with traditional maritime artisans, or be inspired to become part of the clinker boat environment.

From ancient sunken ships to meticulous reconstructions, the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde actively breathes life into the enduring maritime heritage of the Vikings. Photo: Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde

What is there to see at Roskilde?

The Viking Ship Museum is built around the five Viking ships uncovered at the nearby Roskilde Fjord in 1962.

The Skuldelev ships were deliberately sunk just north of Roskilde in 1070 in order to block the passage of the Peberrenden waterway and defend against potential invasion. 

Each different in character and purpose, the vessels have given up a wealth of information from several points of view. 

The capital of Denmark from the 11th century until 1443, Roskilde was a vital trading center during the Viking era for routes over land and sea.

Founded by Harald Bluetooth in the 980s, it was made a diocese by King Cnut nearly four decades later.

All five Skuldelev ships are on display in the Viking Ship Hall at the Viking Ship Museum after being excavated, raised, documented, conserved, and pieced together.

This initiative provides family-friendly entertainment at the boatyard while the team works out in the open

Over time, this will reveal deeper secrets into how these vessels were built. Reconstruction is expected to last several years.

Three proposals have been accepted for the final phase of the architectural competition to design the new museum.

Launched in December 2022, a tender was issued for a new, future-proof exhibition building for the five Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum, as well as a new reception building and outdoor areas, providing visitors with an overall immersive experience.

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