History Lesson


One way to spend a Reykjavík Saturday is to go to art openings. This, at least seems to be the pasttime of a vast number of people who like sipping on white wine from noon until the cocktail hour, darting from one exhibition to the other. I guess its fair that people should see these things as social events and excuses to get drunk rather than appreciating the art before their eyes. It’s impossible to see any of the works at openings anyway, with the throngs of people obscuring all view.

However, I decided to go to the opening of an exhibition of photographs at the National Museum this weekend, grabbing the opportunity to see this newly refurbished institute for the first time. I took my four year old daughter with me who likes to dress up and pose with wine glasses containing fruit juice. She exhibited little interest in the black and white photographs of western-Icelanders in America adorning the walls, so we ventured upstairs to the main exhibit of Icelandic artifacts.

It’s great to experience the wonders of a museum through the eyes of a child. She took everything from the Viking beads and armour to ecclestial cloaks and ancient manuscripts with an avid appetite for information, asking endless and sometimes difficult to answer questions. She spent half an hour staring at the “Black Death “ exhibit because it was illustrated with a hooded skeleton carrying a scythe.

“This Black Death was a very evil man,” she decided. Skeletons were apparently the order of the day, because another half an hour was spent looking at every detail of Viking skeletons.

One of them was buried with his horse and armour, and she was very interested to know whether the horse had still been alive when it was buried with his master or whether they had died at the same time. I explained that people believed that this Viking chief needed to ride up to Valhalla carrying his sword so he could go on to greater battles in the sky.

Next, she looked at the skeleton of a woman. “Where’s her horse?” asked a little voice.

“She doesn’t have a horse.,” I replied. “She’s been buried with her needles that she used to make clothes with. And, look, a few shells and beads.”

This brought on a big frown. “That sucks.” AMB([email protected])

Check out the fabulous newly refurbished museum at

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.