Glaumbaerʼs Living Museum
A remarkably well preserved turf house and farm called Glaumbaer still withstands Icelandʼs harsh weather after three centuries of punishment. Glaumbaer, a fully intact eighteenth and nineteenth century farmhouse near Varmahlíð, just off the Ring Road, presents life in rural Iceland with everything left as though awaiting the return of the family that once lived here. Walking through restored rooms of this well-to-do farmhouse gives an insight into what life was like in this era. Though a wealthy home, the people who lived at Glaumbaer still had to produce all of their own food and clothing by hand and unlike today wealth did not imply ease in the remote countryside.
A dark and narrow corridor with side rooms for storage and food preparation winds up in the large room known as the baðstofa, centre of the householdʼs domestic life and bedroom for the entire family. Dark nights were spent shuttered away in this room where the family huddled together to knit their winter clothes or sometimes to play games like chess or backgammon to pass the time. Bonds grew strong as families toughened up over several winters, labouring for their livelihoods.
At small country farms, connections to the outside world and supplies were relatively limited. People were forced to use anything that came their way to create the tools necessary for daily life. The results of this inventiveness are placed around Glaumbaer in the context of their purpose. Jaw bones from sheep and horses were turned into tools found in the badstofa. Driftwood that washed ashore was carved into storage chests, bowls, and spoons. Even Glaumbaerʼs turf construction was an ingenious way around using wood, which was precious and in short supply at the time the farm was built.
The museum at Glaumbaer was started at the request of residents around Skagafjörður to preserve part of their past. The farm shows how much people can do with limited resources and the creativity that emerges in tough circumstances. Glaumbaer stands as a reminder to Icelanders’ past and shows its visitors how well they survived and thrived in Icelandʼs harsh environment.