A case of a basket or a basket case - The Reykjavik Grapevine

A case of a basket or a basket case

A case of a basket or a basket case

Published August 6, 2004

In 1957, the old farmstead Árbær was chosen to be Reykjavík’s public park and open-air museum with old houses of historical value. Among the current exhibitions is a recollection of the Fifties where a day in the life of six people of all ages is duly documented. To recreate the atmosphere of that time, they’ve even recreated the home of one family in Reykjavík as it was in 1958.

The exhibition was created by students of history at the University of Iceland. Among other exhibitions are a car work shop, a house filled with the tools of bookbinding and then, of course, there is the history of Reykjavík from the time of settlement to the present day. The museum has employed some people to dress up in old clothing and just be there in order to make the museum friskier.

And the visit wouldn’t have been the same without the two adorable old ladies sitting in the loft of the old farmstead, weaving and spinning, willing to converse on any subject as long as it’s about baskets. Our conversation went something like this:

My friend: What do you use the wool for once you’ve worked it? Do you sell it or do you make anything out of it?
Old spinning lady: I spin the wool into a thread and put it in the basket.

Me: And does the museum sell it or..?
Old spinning lady: This is the basket I put the thread into.

Me: What were the evening wakes like where you grew up?
Old knitting lady: The mistress of the house would have been angry at me for taking such a long time to do these little shoes, for doing such detailed work.

Me: Were you required to make a specific amount of knitwear per week?
Old knitting lady: We made the shoes from fish skin.

However, the most memorable sight at the museum must surely be a little placard describing a gold drilling machine imported from Germany in 1922. It was used to drill for gold in Vatnsmýri. Needless to say, none was found. All that and much, much more can be seen at Árbær museum, open until the end of August.

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