Off the Beaten Path
Árnessýsla Heritage Museum at Eyrarbakki, South Iceland
If you are looking for a quiet corner of Iceland that is not overrun by tourists, look no further. Just 45 minutes south-east of Reykjavik lies the charming seaside village of Eyrarbakki with a population of 526 inhabitants. The sleepy village belies its past as Iceland’s centre of culture and commerce from the mid 1800s to the early part of the 20th century.
The town’s oldest and most treasured historic building is called The House, and is the main building of the Árnessýsla Heritage Museum. Built in kit form in 1765 for a Danish merchant and his family, The House was continuously inhabited for more than 200 years and played an important role in Icelandic society. The family brought Danish bourgeois standards to the country and was instrumental in encouraging the common people in the pursuit of art, music, fashion and literature.
Relics from a bygone era
The museum is comprised of three main historical buildings, plus two smaller ones that contain a variety intriguing exhibits that give us insight into the town’s history.
The Big Three
The House, and an adjoining building, known as The Assistant’s House, reveals the story of its past via various exhibits detailing the merchant’s activities. Other exhibits reveal beautifully ornate church artefacts, everyday 18th and 19th century items, and on the upper floor, a small wool and textile exhibition. Also included is an exhibit dedicated to the first wave of Icelanders who emigrated to Wisconsin in the United States during the mid 1800s.
Kirkjubær, the latest addition to the museum complex is a small timber cottage built in 1920. For many years it was the home of common people and served as a summer home in recent decades. Today it hosts an exhibition called The Dream of the Century’s Child which tells of the hopes and wishes of the average Icelander during the period between the world wars, from 1920 to 1940.
A short walk from The House brings us to the Maritime Museum. Here, the story is told of the fishermen, craftspeople and the social lives of the people of Eyrarbakki from 1850 to 1950. The largest and most notable possession of the Maritime Museum is the twelve-oar fishing boat Farsæll, built in 1915.
Open everyday from May 15th to September 15th, 11.00 to 18.00, or by appointment.