A House of Culture - The Reykjavik Grapevine

A House of Culture

A House of Culture

Published July 23, 2004

Parked right in the heart of Reykjavík is a house with the motto of being “at the heart of a nation”. This majestic building is none other than the Culture House, situated at Hverfisgata 15.

It is sometimes claimed that globalization is the biggest enemy of culture. If such were the case, I think it only fair to point out that if we had stubbornly denied all foreign influence in order to maintain our precious culture, we would still be living in grass houses, struggling to survive. Still, we should of course be grateful to museums such as the Culture House for preserving our cultural heritage and reminding us what it consists of and how it evolved.
At the moment there are four exhibitions on display.

On the top floor is an overview of how the National Museum used to be, of its history and role in the nation’s fight for independence and search for a self image. Chests carved in wood, spoons, chairs, and a priest’s robe are among the items on display, along with pictures of how they were arranged when they were on display at the National Museum. On the floor below are two exhibitions. The many faces of the Poetic Edda are on display in the library room, both the various illustrations of artists and various publications of the Edda in many different languages. The other exhibition goes by the title of Home Rule 1904 and is held in celebration of the centenary of Home Rule in Iceland. It touches upon many subjects regarding the nation from roughly 1870 to 1918, to give a more comprehensive insight into the period of home rule and life at that time.

On the ground floor they’ve got medieval manuscripts, Eddas and Sagas. A tour guide enriches the experience of walking through the exhibition by giving an insightful lecture on the history behind the items on display, every Friday at 15:30. She can even be persuaded to read aloud a part of the vellum scripts on display, thus proving that we can indeed understand the ancient scribbling of our ancestors. The gem of the exhibition must surely be the Elder Edda, a small yet meaningful book, containing the cosmology of Northern beliefs.

Without this book it would have been impossible for archaeologists to make sense of many of their findings. The exhibition also goes into the whole process behind the making of vellum scripts, and of course also into the storytelling that gave life to the stories in the first place.
The Culture House is an enchanting place with much to offer, whether you are a boring academic or simply a curious passer-by.

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