Greinasafni: Icelandic Times
The Akranes Museum Area: Interesting and Diverse Museums
Just above the town of Akranes you can find various old and new buildings as well as some old boats. This is the “Museum Area” where not only can you learn some interesting facts about the life in Akranes throughout the centuries by experiencing all sorts of historic items, but also learn to know different minerals or everything about Iceland’s achievements in the Olympics. You will probably be able to lose yourself in these museums and spend a whole day examining every small object, taking a break to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the Garðakaffi coffeeshop.

The Museum Area is situated in the grounds of the ancient manor of Garðar. Garðar had a church and a parsonage from the early days of christian Iceland until the late 19th century. The Akranes Folk Museum was established there in 1959, so it has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. In the year 2000 a new building, The Museum Hall was built, in which two new museums were established, The Mineral Kingdom and Sports in Iceland, and the Museum Area became a reality. In the museum hall there is also an extra exhibition room dedicated to evershifting exhibitions. In addition to the museums you will find five old houses in the area as well as many old boats.

“The area is quite big and extensive, as this has become an established museum area which grows every year,” says Jón Allansson, curator at the Akranes Folk Museum. “It’s not only ideal for people seeking a proper museum experience, but also for those who want to make a nice day out if it; see the museums, have some coffee and cake and take a stroll around the area.”

The Folk Museum
The Folk Museum presents the history and life of Akranes and the district of Hvalfjörður. The museum preserves a comprehensive collection of exhibits that bear witness to days long gone, relating to farming, housekeeping and the social conditions in the area.

Jón says a lot of items come to mind when asked to name the most precious ones. “The ship Sigurfari has to be considered one of our most precious objects. In fact it’s the only preserved ship of this kind from the first years of decked fishing ships in Iceland, made in 1885.”

The oldest items in the Folk museum date from the tenth century but the youngest are only five or six years old. The former are ancient lanterns, found during archeological digs, but the latter are computers and mobile phones. “It might sound funny, but with technology developing so fast in the Western world we can already laugh at ten years old mobile phones and find them fit for a museum display case,” says Jón.

The Museum Hall
The first exhibition to mention in the Museum Hall is The Mineral Kingdom. It is especially interesting these days as the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull is a reminder of the strong forces of nature, creating new lava fields. It has the biggest collection of Icelandic rocks under one roof in Iceland according to Alma Auðunsdóttir who works for the Museum Area. “The mineral specimen derive from all over Iceland and some of them are cut and polished to give a different perspective,” says Alma. Among the minerals you can also find a good collection of ancient fossils. You can even take many of them in your hand to feel their weight and texture.

Inside The Mineral Kingdom thereis an exhibition dedicated to the making of the tunnel under the fjord of Hvalfjörður which opened in 1998. The tunnel is one of a kind in Iceland, being the only undersea tunnel. “The exhibition includes a model of the tunnel and its position under the sea, as it reaches astonishingly deep. There are also examples of hammerdrills and minerals alongside many photographs from the work in progress, drill cores and interesting rocks and minerals from the tunnel,” says Alma.

You will also find a lively exhibition called Sports in Iceland featuring the history of sports in Iceland. All sports practised in Iceland are introduced and numerous exhibits connected with sports are on display, such as photographs, equipment of various kinds, flags, pennants, trophies and other memorabilia associated with sports. A part of this exhibition is dedicated to sports in Akranes, the town being renowned for its sports enthusiasm.

In the extra exhibition room in the museum hall you will find quite an interesting exhibition about the Icelanders who emigrated to North- America in the late 19th century. “The exhibition especially focuses on the tale of a boy who went from Akranes at the age of 12 to Canada. On the way he got lost and was thought to be dead. But 12 years later he knocks on his mother’s door in Akranes, a fine young man. He had got separated from his relatives but had found some other people he knew and came into the possession of a piece of land in Canada. But he always wanted to go back to Iceland and live there so he ended up in Akranes where he started a family,” says Alma.

Boats and houses
Various boats and five old houses are situated in the Museum Area, two of the houses being on display. In recent years old houses connected with the history of Akranes have been moved to the Museum Area and renovated in order to keep the past alive. But one of the old houses still stands in its original location. The Garðar house was built in 1876 and was the first concrete dwelling of its kind to be built anywhere in the Nordic countries. Firstly, it was built as a parsonage and shows in a very real way an Icelandic upper-class home, typical for a pastor’s household in the 19th century.

Neðri-Sýrupartur, which is the other house on display, was built in 1875 and is the oldest preserved house made of timber in Akranes. Formerly situated close to the Akranes lighthouse, it represents the typical home of a fisherman’s family in the old days.

The museum’s largest artefacts constitute its expansive collection of ships and boats of various sizes and shapes. Possibly the most notable item on display at the museum is the aforementioned 86-tonne twomastered ketch Sigurfari, built out of oak in 1885. It was used for handline fishing in Icelandic waters until 1919. (Sigurfari needs to be restored and therefore it is no longer possible to step on board and enjoy the view from the deck, but the museum unfortunately lacks resources to renovate the ship.) Next to Sigurfari is also a pier where various small boats are lined up.

These museums are somewhat different in nature but surely form a unity in their connection with Akranes and the life in the area. The museums themselves also provide guests with lively events. Next June, for example, a group of blacksmiths both Icelandic and foreign, will make items similiar to those on display in the Folk Museum. There will also be held a market day in the museum area in June, where various handicraft artists will offer their work on sale. It just might be an ideal day of culture to go with your family or friends to the museum area in the summer, have lunch at Garðakaffi and then get a guided tour to the museums at one o’clock.

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