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A future bright

September 19, 2010

Right now, Vikingaheimar is in a very interesting position. The financial collapse here in Iceland occurred just as we were set to open, and delayed the opening date by several months. It also meant that some of the projects we were planning, in particular the hands on children’s interactives, had to be done in a much more “low budget” manner. We also decided to roll out the computer displays and the new exhibition features at a more leisurely pace, instead of trying to have everything done at once for the opening.

This strategy has worked out fine. It is in fact more the norm here in Iceland, and even our international visitors seem very understanding and supportive. Clearly the scale and quality of the building and the existing exhibition belies that there is significant impetus behind the museum, and it will just take time for the full vision to be realized.

So after living through the first bumpy year, and finding ways to finance the computer displays and new exhibition components and translations into Icelandic (the low budget children’s interactives will hopefully find funds to be redone someday soon), I thought the museum was sort of hitting its stride.

Well, we have hit another financial snag. One of the owners of the museum, in fact the controlling owner, is the township of Reykjanesbær. That township has faced a number of challenges, even before the collapse of the banking system, including the loss of quotas, but most significantly the withdrawal of the NATO American base from Keflavík in 2006. At that time, the financial outlook in Iceland was rosy, and the mayor of the township was enthusiastic that the base closing would lead to new, better, and more diverse opportunities. He set about encouraging lots of new enterprises both on the converted base and around the town.

Vikingaheimar was not specifically tied to this effort, since plans for the museum began in 2003. But, in as much as our exhibition talks about the links between Iceland and North America across the North Atlantic, it is still intellectually linked to the Nato base. It gives a historical frame to Iceland as part of a larger North Atlantic arena, and now that the base is gone, the museum’s placement in this township seems less natural.

For the township, the closing of the base, coupled with the township’s own desire to develop and expand, collided, rather unhappily, with the financial collapse of fall 2008.

Now the township likely will need to turn to the federal government to help. As an institution controlled by the township, and one which has both significant start up debts and significant long term possibilities, it is indeed possible that something might change vis a vis the ownership of Vikingaheimar sometime in the near future.

I am personally very excited about these discussions, because no matter what, such an overhaul and review will require everyone involved to make decisions about priorities and streamlining structures. As a newly established institution still trying to position itself in terms of its long-range growth objectives, such discussions will surely be fruitful. Although a bit nerve-wracking, I am genuinely looking forward to it.

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One Comment
  1. Karen permalink

    Hi Lissy – I’m getting an interesting error message when trying to go to the museum’s website –
    Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 262144 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 19456 bytes) in /home/content/f/d/i/fdinternet/html/viking/wp-includes/default-constants.php on line 128

    What’s up with the website? I wanted to look at the museum’s hours in June.

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