Forskningsdagene, aka Norwegian National Science Week, involves a number of events intended to make research (most often scientific) available to the public and also to create public awareness about research in Norwegian universities and enterprises. In one event in Bergen (with parallels elsewhere), the University together with affiliated groups and other institutions (such as the architectural school) set up booths within a series of large tents and entertain children and some parents over the course of a Friday and Saturday.This year, largely at the instigation of Ã…slaug Ommundsen, who wrote and designed all the banners, the Centre for Medieval Studies participated. Activities included paper and parchment samples which children used to distinguish one from the other, writing in runes and (my responsibility) hand paper making.
Ã…slaug and I worked the booth for the full stints both days. We were aided by Eldar Heide and Frode Hervik on Friday, and Stian Hamre on Saturday. Thomas Foerster and Leidulf Melve helped with the rigging; BiÃ¶rn TjÃ¤llÃ©n and Susan Foran, a new postdoc at CMS, with the demolition. Our inestimable director, Sverre Bagge stopped by with two grandchildren on Saturday as did SigbjÃ¸rn SÃ¸nnesyn and clan.
Much to my surprise the booth was always active. This surprise presented a bit of a challenge since I do not have the papermaking kit to produce sheets continuously on a quasi-industrial level; so everything was well soaked around me for most of the day. But the kids were engaged and curious which took care of the most important part of things. Very exhausting, but totally rewarding for that very reason.
Of all the questions asked, perhaps the most difficult, but most apt came from a woman who queried “What is this about” and then followed with “But, but why are you here?”…I think she meant what were medievalists doing at something dominated by nanotechnology, hospitals, energy groups and the like, but two hours into the second day, I thought maybe she was reading my mind which was wondering very much what I was doing.
Coverage from the UiB net-magazine can be found here. Their photo of Ã…slaug and Frode standing in front of the most eye-catching banner “Why do we use the Latin alphabet…the answer lies in the Middle Ages”: