southwest iceland: skógar folk museum

Tuesday, August 23:  By the time we leave the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue, it’s close to 2:00.  There is still so much to see, and daylight hours are running out!   We head west on the Ring Road until we come to the Skógar Folk Museum.  The museum preserves the cultural heritage of the Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla region in the form of  old buildings, tools and equipment used at land and sea, crafts, books, manuscripts and documents.

We stop in briefly at the Museum of Transport to get a map, and then we head out onto the grounds, where we find the Skógar Church & the Skal Farm.

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Skógar Church & Skal Farm

On our way, we see the landscape of Skógar with the Turf Farm in the foreground.

the back of the Turf Farm
the back of the Turf Farm

Consecrated in 1998, the Skógar Church at the Folk Museum boasts a new exterior, but inside it uses remnants of older churches, in the style that predominated Iceland from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.  The windows are from the Church of Gröf, 1898. Bells date from 1600 and 1742.

Skógar Church
Skógar Church

All church furnishings date from the 17th and 18th centuries.  It preserves the original interior of the church of Kálholt, built in 1879. The altarpiece is from Ásólfsskáli Church (1768) and chandeliers from Steinar Church and Skógar Church (16th century). (Pamphlet – Skógar Folk Museum).

Inside Skógar Church
Inside Skógar Church

The Farmhouse from Skál, Síða, was built in 1919-20; it was reconstructed at Skógar Museum in 1989. The house was lived in until 1970.

Skal Farm
Skal Farm

Baðstofa, the communal room where the household slept, ate and worked, was built over the cattle shed to benefit from the warmth of the animals.  The kitchen and parlor are in the front section of the house. The storehouse, from Gröf, Skaftártunga, dates from about 1870 (Pamphlet – Skógar Folk Museum).

I love how the house takes up so little space yet offers community and warmth in this cold climate.

The House of Holt was built entirely of driftwood in 1878 by the Regional Commissioner. It was the first timber house in Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla. The wall panels in the west room are from the wreck of the hospital ship St. Paul, from 1899.  The house was lived in until 1974 and rebuilt at Skógar in 1980 (Pamphlet – Skógar Folk Museum).

House of Holt
House of Holt
The grounds of the folk museum
The grounds of the folk museum

The Schoolhouse is from Litli-Hvammur, Mýrdalur, built in 1901.  It was reconstructed at Skógar in 1999-2000.

The Old Schoolhouse
The Old Schoolhouse

In the Turf Farmhouse, the parlor dates from 1896, bedroom from 1838, pantry from about 1850, kitchen from about 1880, baðstofa (communal room where the household slept, ate and worked) from 1895, storehouse from 1830, cattle shed from about 1880, smithy from about 1950 (Pamphlet – Skógar Folk Museum).

The Turf Farm
The Turf Farm

In these buildings, we can see how the people of Iceland lived in past times.

The Turf Farm
The Turf Farm
The Turf Farm
The Turf Farm
bedroom inside the Turf Farm
bedroom inside the Turf Farm

After the Turf Farm, we go into the Museum Building, opened in 1949.  Its first permanent building was built in 1954-1955 and enlarged in 1989-1994.  One man, Þórður Tómasson, collected the artifacts and the houses of the open-air museum over 75 years.  Today, the museum has 15,000 regional folk craft artifacts exhibited in three museums and six historical buildings.

Bed-boards were first used in the 17th century.  The board was placed at the side of the bed during the night.  As beds were usually shared by more than one person, they were crowded, and the bed-board ensured that no one fell out of bed.  In the communal living, sleeping and working room, there was no heating but body heat.  During the day, the bed-board was removed and the bed was used as seating.  Bed-boards were often carved with the owner’s initials, a date or a prayer, in ornamental “head lettering.”

bed-boards
bed-boards

In the museum’s Maritime Hall is the fishing boat Pétursey, built in 1855 and in use until 1946.  The hull’s design conformed with conditions on the south coast: with no harbors or moorages, boats had to be launched straight out into the open waves of the ocean, beached on return.

The fishing-boat Pétursey in the Maritime Hall
The fishing-boat Pétursey in the Maritime Hall
The fishing-boat Pétursey
The fishing-boat Pétursey

On the north wall are various kinds of fishing gear, examples of how whalebone was used, and equipment for transporting the fish catch home from the shore.

The Maritime Hall
The Maritime Hall
saddles
saddles
Icelandic dresses
Icelandic dresses
tapestry
tapestry

In the south loft are large chests carved by renowned craftsman Ólafur Þórarinsson (1768-1840).

display in the Folk Museum
display in the Folk Museum

There are many displays of saddles, metalwork in brass and copper from riding gear.

saddle display
saddle display
painting and creatures
painting and creatures

The Natural History collection was donated by a private collector in Reykjavik and includes birds, eggs, insects, plants and rocks.

Eggs
Eggs
Arctic Fox
Arctic Fox

Since I was unable to get up close and personal to a puffin at Reynisfjara, I’m excited to find one here in the museum.

Puffin
Puffin
Oystercatcher
Oystercatcher

After our walk around this fantastic museum, we head to the waterfall Skógafoss, where we’ll find gold at the end of a rainbow. 🙂