Icelandic Museum of the Year Award 2000
Iceland is a young nation of young museums. When Norwegian fishermen began salting herring in the tiny village of Siglufjörður in 1903 Iceland awoke from a millenium of poverty. Siglufjörður was the capital of the herring industry which transformed Iceland into the affluent nation it is today. This industry was at its peak in 1950, the very year Iceland’s first museum opened to the public. Seventeen years later, the herring disappeared and the industry along with it. By the 1980s, little reminder remained of the once great herring adventure that had touched an entire nation.
The Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður is Iceland’s youngest museum. In 1989, a group of interested locals formed the Siglufjörður Museum Society (FÁUM), establishing the museum to preserve the herring story for future generations of Icelanders. Its purpose is to tell that story and showcase Siglufjörður’s role in the growth of modern Iceland. The museum receives financial support from the Icelandic government, the Icelandic Council of Museums, the Town of Siglufjörður, various funds, companies, societies and individuals.
The first exhibit building, Róaldsbrakki, opened in 1994. A fully-restored 1907 Norwegian-built herring salting station, the largest and best example in Iceland. The second exhibit building, Grána, opened in 2000. It houses a re-built herring oil and meal factory of the 1930s-1950s. A third exhibit building, The Boathouse, is currently under construction.
Our professional and social philosophy is the use of “naturalism and realism” in ambitious exhibits meant to connect Icelandic visitors to their heritage and foreign visitors to Iceland’s industrial past. We tell the whole story in a large as life way. For example, to tell the story of herring oil and meal factories in Iceland we built an entire factory. To step into the boiler room in Grána or the bunkrooms in Róaldsbrakki is to be transported in time. The best judge of our success is the approval we receive from lifetime herring workers who come to us and say this is just like it was.
It is this quality of realism which deserved to be awarded. In selecting us for the Icelandic Museum of the Year Award in 2000, the judges said, “ The Herring Era Museum’s artifacts, exhibits and cultural heritage communication are exemplary, successfully drawing a remarkably realistic and flawless picture of a well-defined period in the story of both Siglufjörður and the nation as a whole. The museum is a credit to the town of Siglufjörður and its heritage.”
There is no doubt that the Herring Era Museum is relevant to national and community development and greatly improves the quality of life. It is rapidly becoming the premier cultural center in Siglufjörður. Its dynamic role as heritage museum, tourist attraction, art gallery, concert and lecture venue, banquet and meeting facility ensures its prominence as a place of pride within the community and the nation.
At the Herring Era Museum we define professional excellence as the ability to take the best around you as the bottom line and do better. Knowledge, skill and love of the project combined with belief, patience and perseverence equals excellence. If building this museum has taught us one thing it is to be above all ambitious.
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