Skógar Museum center of history and culture
Iceland has many things to offer when it comes to nature, like waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes and black sand beaches. But what about the people living here? How did they live? What did they do and how did they survive the hard living conditions?
If you are driving the south coast of Iceland you get an opportunity to answer these questions as well a many other about the life in Iceland back in the old days.
Skógar Museum was founded in the year 1949 by Þórður Tómasson (b. 1921) and the counties Rangárvallasýsla and Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla. The main purpose was to preserve the old culture that had been more or less the same from the settlement time from disappearing as new technology was taking over at the beginning of the last century.
Þórður Tómasson grove up on a small farm, he had endless interest in culture and history from a young age and started to collect items for the museum at the age of 13.
The museum was found a place in Skógar on the borders of the two counties. And from that time the museum has been growing and is today one of Iceland's biggest and most interesting museum about the history of life in Iceland in the old days.
The open-air museum area
The museum has a big open-air museum with old buildings, the traditional Icelandic farmhouses called Torfbær (turf house). That was the home of people in Iceland for more than 1000 years. It was mainly build-up from dirt and rocks covered with turf. It was usually a line of houses built side by side and each house had its own purpose. The house for sleeping (baðstofa), the storage house (skemma), the kitchen (hlóðeldhús), and the food storage (búrið) and so on. There was no central heating in these houses only the insulation from the rocks and the dirt in the walls and the turf on the roof. So a cold place to live in, but a good shelter to keep out the wind and the rain.
In the open air museum, you can also see a different style of houses and different types as well. An old school building and an old cosy church for example.
The main building
In the main building of the Skógar Museum, you can find a few different departments. One gives you a good idea about the fishing in the old days, in the heart of the fishing department is a big boat Pétursey build in the year 1855, a typical boat for the South of Iceland. Where the farmer went out to sea for fishing from the black sand coast to bring something fresh to eat for their families. So people did not have to eat lamb meat in every meal.
Agriculture has always been the main thing here in Iceland, we can say that the sheep kept people alive here in the old days. So it was very important for the farmers to do as well as they could to keep the sheep alive, at least until they needed the meat and the wool. It was a difficult struggle for both the people and the sheep. Horses and cows were important as well. The horses were mainly used for transportation as well as af for transport heavy load. And from the cow people were able to protect skyr, cream and butter from the milk.
Skógar Museum gives you a good idea about the agriculture, you can see the tools people used for cutting the grass, transporting the, hey, making products from the milk, tools for building a house, tools from the blacksmith and so on.
It was not only the sheep meat that was important the wool was important as well. It was more or less the only textiles we had in Iceland, so it was used for blankets, clothing and basically everything. Working the wool was a part of the craftsmanship, the horsehair was used for making ropes and the cow horns for making spoons for example.
In the department of craftsmanship, you will see items made from the wool both items people had to use for their daily life but also items people had for decoration.
A visit to Skógar Museum will give you a good idea about all this, show you how people lived, what they used and how they used what they had to keep themselves alive in this inhospitable island with this amazing nature.
The transportation museum in Skógar
The transportation museum is a part of Skógar Museum it was opened In the year 2002. It is a great place to learn and see the development of transportation in Iceland from the horse that was the main transportation in Iceland for over 1000 years to the time the car took over. In the museum, you can find the tools and vehicles used for making roads and building bridges all around Iceland. As well as an exhibition about the mail (Pósturinn), telecommunication development (Síminn). The development of electricity in Iceland (RARIK) and an exhibition from the history of the Icelandic SAR rescue association. As well as many other things.
It is easy to spend the whole day walking around the Skógar Museum and the Transportation Museum. And after your visit there, you will understand better the people living in Iceland and in a way also a deeper understanding of nature and how nature has formed the people living here.
The museum has also a nice gift and souvenir shop and a really good café where you get home-baked cakes and some Icelandic dishes.