Thursday, 13 March 2014

Iceland National Museum

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We spent a day exploring Reykjavik and this was one of the places we visited in the afternoon after our lovely lunch in Café Loki. It is quite walk able from mot places in the capital but I believe buses do go out that way and of course you could always take a taxi. It isn’t terrifically well signed but as we managed to find it obviously it is possible to find.

It is a large modern, not terribly attractive building. I think it look more like a factory but inside is well laid out and there I plenty to see which makes it worth a visit.

May 1st - September 15th:
Daily 10-17
September 16th - April 30th:
Tuesday - Sunday 11-17. Closed on Mondays.
Adult: 1200 kr. About £7.00
Senior citizens (67+) and students: 600 kr.
Groups of 10+: 600 kr.
Children under 18, ICOM, FISOS: Free
Visa and Mastercard  are both accepted


Most parts of the museum are easily accessible with automatic doors. There are folding prams for use of visitors with young children and wheelchairs as well if needed available from reception. There are lifts to the basement, where the cloakroom and toilets are situated, and there is also a lift between the floors of the exhibition room.

There are three toilets in the cloakroom below the entrance, one of them for disabled, and further toilets with door openers on the 2nd floor, one is suitable for disabled.

Information is available in Braille just ask at reception. There are audio guides in Icelandic, English, Danish, German, French, Swedish, Italian and Polish.  Special audio guides for children are available in Icelandic and English.

The museum is all  no smoking but  there Is an area  outside the café where wall mounted cigarette receptacles are available and people can smoke there  .
The café is on the ground floor not far from the reception area but as we didn’t use this I won’t comment on what is offered or prices.

The museum shop was neat and modern looking and sold a variety of locally  produced goods and handicrafts ,a good selection of books, children´s toys ,most of which are replicas based on old toys were also sold but the price were pretty steep on the things we looked at.


There was such a lot to see that really you needed to visit more than once. I find it hard to take in too much information at one time so we tend to choose  a few things that interest u and spend time there and leave the rest as otherwise I get ‘information overload’.

We looked at the exhibitions that told the story of the Icelandic nation from the beginnings to the present day. Even that was actually too much to take it all in.

‘Making of a Nation’ – tells the story of the Icelandic people through ‘about 2,000 objects, dating from the Settlement Age to the present, as well as about 1,000 photographs from the 20th century.’

The exhibition starts with the ship in which medieval settlers crossed the ocean to the island mainly from Norway and takes the visitor through the years to the final exhibition which is the airport which is Iceland’s gateway to the world today.

Although there were many older exhibits the ones that grabbed my attention were those of the twentieth century which were collected into decades and sadly  I remembered a lot of the things from the sixties onwards but it was funny to see them in a museum.

Another interesting section was the time between 1400 and 1600 when the Dane ruled Iceland and the Danish King forced them to become Lutheran Christians but being pragmatic they took on board the religion and happily adapted this into their former pagan beliefs.

One of the museum’s most important pieces and one of the oldest is a sitting bronze figure that some think is Thor while others wonder whether it is a sitting Christ. The human figure has been dated to around 1000 AD. The figure is holding an object which could either be Thor’s hammer, but look remarkably similar to the Christian cross.

The museum’s exhibits are collected and displayed in chronologic order but then there are also obvious themes which include  Work and Way of Life,, Homes and Settlement Patterns,  Arts and Crafts and finally Social Culture and Language

There are quite a few multi media displays with interactive touch screens . These allow you to choose how much you want to learn about different things and we spent some time on a couple of these but as they were in Icelandic we didn’t get a lot out of the wording! One of these interactive exhibitions was a telephone which allowed visitors to talk to people from the past which we watched some youngsters enjoying. There were also different  videos on digital screens.

As I said there was a huge amount of information with so many exhibits that you really needed to visit a few times to get full value from the place. It was beautifully set out with a mixture of high tech and traditional exhibits or artifacts. The explanations were in Icelandic and English which was handy for us.

Once we reached the twentieth century there were a huge number of photographs which again were interesting but there I a limit to how much visual information you can take in so we looked at a few which grabbed out attention but as there were well over 600 it would take some time to do them justice but it was an impressive collection.

The main exhibition,’ Reflections of a Century’, takes you year by year through the century   tracing the history of Iceland and its people .  Every year I represented by about half a dozen photographs.

We were beginning to be a bit foot weary and as we find there is a limit to how much we can take in we spent about an hour and a half in the museum before we felt we had had enough and needed to get back to the hotel for a bit of a feet p before our trip to see the Northern Lights.


It is not a ‘must see’ place but if you are interested in finding out a bit more about Iceland and its history it is well worth a visit. It is well set out and there I plenty of variety so something will appeal to everyone I would think.

This is the cultural museum in Reykjavik but if you fancy something very different you can skip this and visit the Phallus museum see” The Icelandic Phallological Museum is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country.”

I just wish we had known about it sooner but sadly we didn’t have time to visit while we were there!

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