Queer history shunned by museums in Iceland

A lecturer at the University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands) claims that public museums are disregarding their duty to represent the whole nation, by shunning queer issues. The lecturer wants to bring queer history into light.

“We can’t say anything to the private museums. They can do as they please. But the public museums have a responsibility to represent the nation as a whole, not just the hetero part of it,” says Magnus Gestsson, who alongside academics Ásta Benediktsdóttir, and Íris Ellenberger, has been developing ideas and discussing the status of queer visibility in public museums as well as aiming at establishing a queer history hub. Photo/Halla Þórlaug
“We can’t say anything to the private museums. They can do as they please. But the public museums have a responsibility to represent the nation as a whole, not just the hetero part of it,” says Magnus Gestsson, who alongside academics Ásta Benediktsdóttir, and Íris Ellenberger, has been developing ideas and discussing the status of queer visibility in public museums as well as aiming at establishing a queer history hub. Photo/Halla Þórlaug

“Public museums have a responsibility towards society and social groups, it’s their duty to bring queer history into light, as a part of their role in gathering information and material evidence about the nation. But they haven’t done so, because of what can only be seen as institutionalized homophobia,” argues Dr. Magnus Gestsson, a lecturer in Art History, Art Theory and Museum Studies at the University of Iceland.

Magnus mastered in both History of Art Architecture and Design and Museum Studies, and subsequently was awarded a Phd in museum and gallery studies from the University of Leicester in 2009. Moving back to Iceland in 2014 it struck Magnus that queer history seems to be non-existent in local and national museums. In order to take on the problem and gather information on the subject a group of Museum Studies students was offered to research and write course essays on the subject of the visibility of queer culture in Icelandic museums. The results were striking and could be used as a challenge for the Icelandic museums to take responsibility and make queer history visible. The studies produced by the group could also be used as guide lines for museums and galleries to take on the challenge of representing queer culture both creatively and constructively.

Why do you think public museums have ignored queer history? Why the “institutionalized homophobia” as you put it?
“There are somethings in the queer culture that raises fear and one of those things is sex. Heterosexual public displays of affection are ubiquitous. Hetero people holding hands and kissing – and that’s not a problem. But when it comes to queer public displays of affection in the public sphere, people get hesitant. Exhibitions have even been stopped for hinting at homosexual and other variations of queer sex-life. That’s pure censorship and should not be tolerated.”

Do you feel that Icelanders are proud of their ‘liberalism’ towards the queer community, only when it suits them? Such as when the world celebrates the first openly gay prime minister?
“Well, there was an exhibition until 31st of August last, celebrating the centenary of Icelandic women’s right to vote in one of the galleries at the National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn). One of the displays was a huge photo of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the former prime minister. Next to the image there was a very informing text, reciting her story – her being prime minister and fighting for women’s rights and so on – but not once is it mentioned that she is a lesbian, or the fact that she was the word’s first openly gay prime minister. Not once!”

“… in one of the galleries of the National Museum of Iceland… was a huge photo of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir … not once is it mentioned that she is a lesbian, or that she was the word’s first openly gay prime minister. Not once!”

Have the public museums ignored this duty completely?
“I know that the National Museum has sent out a questionnaire regarding queer people. And a few years back it also held a small photography exhibition in cooperation with the national queer organisation of Iceland, Samtökin ’78. A few photographs, and that was it.

When I visited the museum with the Museum Studies students in the spring this year not even the Rainbow flag was on the conveyor belt that represents the most recent history in the main exhibition. This alienation from history not enough. Something has to happen. My vision is much greater than a conveyor belt and an exhibition of photographs that gets taken down.”

Just how do you think the museums should take the first steps towards queer visibility? “Well, one small example my students spotted, is a figurine of Thor [Thor, as in Thor the thunder-god], that greets you as you enter the main exhibition. And as many people know, when

Magnus is also fond of the idea of putting together a special exhibition on queer history in Iceland. “By doing so, we’re contributing towards self-definition. Because museums usually tend to tell the story from above. Metahistories. History that should be universal, butwhen looked at closely, you see that it isn’t. It confirms the hetero-normative society and nothing else. So these exhibitions turn out to be male-centric, homophobic, anti-feminist, transphobic and generally queer phobic. The phobias just come rolling over us. We need to change this.”
Magnus is also fond of the idea of putting together a special exhibition on queer history in Iceland. “By doing so, we’re contributing towards self-definition. Museums tend to tell the story from above. Metahistories. History should take diversity into account, but when looked at closely, you see that it isn’t. We need to tell the story from the grass roots level and step away from the self-indulging hero worshiping. The current approach confirms the hetero-normative society and nothing else. So these exhibitions turn out to be male-centric, homophobic, anti-feminist, transphobic and queer phobic in the big scheme of things. The phobias just come rolling over us. We need to change this.”

Thor lost his hammer he dressed up in drag and Loki – that wonderful creature with fluid gender identity – dressed up in drag and together they went to reclaim Thor’s hammer. So, there you immediately have an opportunity to start a common (queer) thread that could run through the main exhibition.”

Magnus says that there are so many more opportunities that the students spotted in that specific exhibition. “Another example is the conveyor belt, which should represent contemporary society. There wasn’t even a rainbow flag there – still Samtökin ’78 is one of the most important human rights association formed in Iceland in the late 20th century. But fortunately, after our visit the rainbow flag was placed on the conveyor belt, thanks to an insider who had been campaigning for it for some time.”

So basically your argument is not only to produce a special exhibition that would focus on queer history, but also to focus on the queer history that’s hidden in the current permanent exhibition, The Making of a Nation?
“Exactly. I would to make it clear that queer history is intertwined with the nation’s culture all the way back to ‘The Lay of Thrym’ [a Norse myth, one of the best known poems from the Poetic Edda ], at the least,” says Magnus and adds that the next step is to get a specialist to research and review the exhibition from queer perspective, and point out un-utilized opportunities. “These kinds of exhibitions have to evolve, just as our knowledge does. And public museums have a duty, by law, to collect data and information about the nation and make it accessible in exhibitions.”

Main photo: Pixels.com

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Núðluskálin
          - noodle bar

          Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

          All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
          We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
          Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

          Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

          Seatours
          - adventure cruise

          Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
          and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

          The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

          600x400-seatours-tasting

          This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

          600x400-seatours

          The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

          Birds, possible to spot:
          -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
          -eider ducks
          -shags
          -kittiwakes
          -fulmars
          -white-tailed eagle

          The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
          Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

          Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

          Contact Us


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