The Akureyri Museum, one of the 3 tourist attractions we really liked in Iceland’s 2nd city, divided Ruth and me. I spent my time looking at ancient maps and the history of the town. She looked at native dresses and 1980s fashions.
This fine, small museum is in the oldest part of Akureyri and is a bit hard to find. That’s why I included the picture of it that makes it look like an art deco house. Once inside, we were told that there were 3 exhibition spaces. On ground level were two temporary shows: Land Ahoy!, that was being taken down at the end of the year, and Are You Ready, Madam President?, returning to Reykjavik after it closes on January 3, 2016.
Land Ahoy! enchanted me. It contained 25 historical maps of Iceland made between 1547 and 1808. They really showed both the evolution of map-making and changing perceptions about this remote island in the North Atlantic. The oldest map, printed in Italy, showed an exotic, fantasy place. The city of Reykjavik didn’t show up on a map until 1771 and was creatively spelled Reikiaviik. The earlier maps included menacing monsters from the mapmakers’ imaginations. There were animals called horse-whales depicted. A walrus was described as “a fearsome beast”. My favorite map was a 1570 Ortelius showing many islands that simply don’t exist with Iceland oddly placed and half the size of Greenland. I love old maps.
I went to find Ruth, who had spent zero time looking at maps. She was focused intently on a video about Vigdis Finnbogadóttir. At the age of 50, this human dynamo became the first female president in the world. She won a democratic election in Iceland and stayed in power for 16 years. Are You Ready, Madam President? focused on her wardrobe, jewelry, favored decor, etc. Still alive and active at 85, Vigdis is a national icon. Ruth loves stories about successful women.
I told Ruth I was going downstairs to see the Akureyri Museum’s permanent stuff and she said she’d follow. She never did. I was alternately fascinated and bored by “Town by the Bay”. What greeted me was an exploration of whale and seal hunting, salting fish, etc. I was bored. A 1960 photograph showed a thriving, busy city that looked nothing like the 2015 town I was visiting. It explained that shops were “hang out” meeting places that often offered free booze until 1888, when some prominent citizens stopped the practice. I was fascinated. I walked by skis and some really old toys. By the time I got to a re-created parlor, I was bored again. But then I found Ash Wednesday. This was local children’s favorite holiday because they dressed in costumes, went to stores and were given free candy and yogurt, and engaged in a practice described as “beating a cat out of a barrel”. I was fascinated.
I don’t normally blog about exhibits that will disappear shortly after I write about them. However, I made an exception with Madame President for 2 reasons: Ruth urged me to tell you about it and MP will return to Reykjavik where it will go back on permanent display at the Design Museum of Iceland. Perhaps it’s temporarily closed for renovations or something and their website is down. In any event, I can’t find out anything about the Design Museum of Iceland. Ruth would probably locate it easily.