From Iceland — Unexpectedly Awesome

Unexpectedly Awesome

Published May 9, 2008

Unexpectedly Awesome

Chances are that your handy rough guide doesn’t mention this. From the road, it appears that someone has transplanted colourful buildings from the city centre and placed them in the middle of a homogenous suburb of identical housing tracks and eerie new shopping centres. For the planners of Árbærsafn, the Reykjavík City Museum, this was exactly the idea: to preserve a piece of 19th Century Iceland right in the midst of the ugly, overdeveloped suburb.. Currently on display is the “Disco and Punk- Different Cultures?” exhibit, which documents the frustrating history of the two subcultures in Reykjavik from the 70’s onward. Almost unheard of elsewhere, the disco and punk scenes bonded uniquely over their exclusion and small size. Árbærsafn has divided the highly interactive exhibit into two sections: a teenage punk’s room and a tennage disco’s room. In the punk section, one can find flyers from old punk shows, records, and pictures of the once-punk Bubbi Morthens with hair. The garage is complete with brand-new band equipment that guests can use.

The disco section includes a representation of the 70’s disco club “Hollywood,” with a light up dance floor and blaring Bee-Gees. The panels are in Icelandic, so English speakers should be sure to take the tour. A replicated turf house (turf houses were banned in the city in 1894) is the Mona Lisa of Árbærsafn. Inside are preserved rooms with artefacts such as paintings made with human hair, old stoves, a loom and family portraits. I found it disturbing when my guide showed me that the entire family of six slept in the same room. But when he told me that the family invited a respected guest to take the bed with the oldest daughter, I was mortified. Detailed explanations of turf-placement and sheep-dung cooking techniques were fascinating. Coming soon to the museum is an early locomotive and fire engine section, featuring cool models of old Reykjavík and the Great Fire of Reykjavík of 1915. Admission: 600 kr

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