Greinasafni: Söfn
The National Museum of Iceland
Now Showing at the National Museum of Iceland
The National Museum of Iceland offers an insight into Icelandic history and culture. The Museum’s permanent exhibition ‘Making of a Nation—Heritage and History in Iceland’ is designed to illuminate the country’s history by placing the cultural heritage in a historical context, guided by the question, “What makes a nation?” Temporary exhibitions are arranged on a regular basis, with new ones opening every few months.

Here are four exhibitions now showing:

The Match of the Century
In the Land of Chess, History was Made
For many people the world over, the ‘Match of the Century’ refers to one event: the 1972 chess match between defending champion, the Russian, Boris Spassky and the 29 year-old American, Robert Fischer. In the midst of the Cold War, the match was fraught with political overtones.
Iceland, being half-way between the two protagonists’ countries and a chess-playing nation, was the natural venue. Today, visitors can catch the spirit of the match in the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik, right next to the university. The special exhibition is just one of a very diverse range of exhibitions, both temporary and permanent at this museum, known for its creativity in bringing history to life in very interesting ways.
‘Bobby’ Fischer, started the match with a disastrous loss of the first two games after his eccentric behaviour had almost led to its abandonment. He had never won a game from Spassky, though he had beaten other grand masters. In a match full of drama and controversy, Fischer beat the Russian master by 7 games to 3, with 11 drawn. Fischer, who was later given Icelandic citizenship, after feeling persecuted by his own country, died in Iceland aged 64 in 2008 and is remembered as one of the greatest chess players. Spassky remains the oldest living former world chess champion at 75 years old.

Advent in the Mountains
Iceland’s mountainous wastelands are no place to be in December

Winter in Iceland can be both beautiful and dangerous, with sudden storms, blizzards, ice and bitter cold–especially up in the mountains of the north. Every year, in the autumn, a major event takes place: bringing the sheep down to the safety of the sheep barns before the storms set in. However, there are always a few who get lost. They face almost certain death in the winter.

A Photo Story with a Difference
Every year, a farmer set off at the beginning of Advent to look for those lost sheep and bring them to safety. His struggles against all the odds provide the background of a special exhibition at the National Museum of Iceland. The dramatic story of his search and all he went through, risking life and limb with his faithful dog and bellwether sheep, is told in equally dramatic black and white photos from the area of North Iceland where the story is set by photographer, Sigurjón Pétursson.

A Folk Tale with Meaning
A folk tale, penned by Gunnar Gunnarsson, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize, the story is both a parable and a gripping story, the shepherd’s survival a matter outside his own control, and the eventual outcome, a moving testimony to the simple standards of service to others that are often overlooked in today’s society.

Plucked from Stormy Seas
A daring rescue at the remote Látrabjarg was heard around the world

On the 5th December 1947, the trawler Dhoon slipped out of Fleetwood, bound for the West Fjords area to fish.
A week later, the fishermen were caught a ferocious storm. Mountainous seas, storm-force winds and blizzard conditions made it impossible to see more than a few metres and then, in the darkness, a sickening crunch. They were stuck fast on the rocks. A sailor’s nightmare. Dawn showed the full horror of their predicament. Towering over them was a sheer cliff, 600 feet high, covered in snow and ice. Rescue looked impossible. The skipper and two crewmen were lost overboard in the storm. Twelve crew members were still alive. Their distress call was picked up in Reykjavik and a message was sent immediately to the nearest farm. No vehicles were available. The farmers hiked to the cliff, finally finding the stricken ship and a rescue operation began. Twelve courageous men from the nearby farms, young and old set out in terrible weather, with no thought for their personal safety. The trek was slippery and hazardous.
They set up a base on the exposed clifftop then rapelled down to a small ledge some 80 metres (240 feet) above sea level. From there, four continued down to the shore. They climbed and slid over the icy rocks for 4 km, laden with the heavy ropes and rescue gear, in constant danger of falling rocks and lashed by the spray in the bitter cold of the storm. Arriving at the site of the wreck, they spotted some men at its stern. On the second attempt, a rocket reached the ship and the rescue began. Before darkness fell, all 12 crewmen had been rescued and 7 had been hauled up to the ledge with one of the rescuers before the tide cut them off. The remaining men spent the night on the shore where two were injured by falling rocks. Those on the narrow ledge had to stay the night, their feet hanging over the edge, with their rescuers keeping them warm and safe. The men were almost dead from exhaustion when they reached the cliff top where villagers had set up a tent. From there, they were taken on horseback to the farms and nearest village, where the womenfolk fed and cared for them. By now, everyone was exhausted by the hard work, the bitterly cold weather, exposure and lack of sleep. A Royal Navy ship collected the 12 survivors who were all safely home for Christmas. The rescue team was later specially honoured by Queen Elizabeth for their successful but extremely hazardous mission.

The Museum’s Photo Gallery displays photos by Óskar Gíslason taken while filming “Rescue at Látrabjarg”, the cliffhanger rescue against almost impossible odds that gripped the world at Christmas time in 1948. The film will be shown at 3 pm on Sundays for the duration of the exhibition.

Traversing Time and Technique
Four artists, two centuries, drawing together timeless qualities

The year is 1789. Aboard Sir John Stanley’s Northern Seas expedition is John Baine, a mathematician, astronomer and artist. Baine used the latest techniques to calculate and render ground plans with passion and empathy. Add three 21st century artists, Per Kirkeby, Anna Guðjónsdóttir and Þóra Sigurðardóttir and a whole new dialogue begins through the pictures’ qualities: their force, mystery and tactility.

The countryside inspiration

All the drawings deal, in some way, with the countryside, its land, minerals, soils and nature. Their focus is on observation of substances, environments, and conditions through the abstract methods entailed in drawing.

Danish artist Per Kirkeby
A geologist, two centuries later, he engraves his drawings in the field directly on copper or zinc, his work being transferred later to paper. He has worked in Greenland, Iceland, the Faroes, drawing as he hikes.

Anna Guðjónsdóttir
A long-time resident of Germany, she often delves into forms such as matted roots and grasses, her plays of fine brush-lines coming across as swirling streams.
Þóra Sigurðardóttir
Her works focus on minerals used as glazes on fired clay—cobalt, kaolin, iron, copper. Her source is the immediate environment, whether creases in skin, cracks in a wall or sprouting twigs.

Suðurgata 41 • 101 Reykjavík
+354 530 2200


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