The museum was opened in 1949 and its first permanent building was built in 1954-55. It was enlarged in 1989-1994 and now has an area of 600 m². The museum has been the responsibility of one man, Thordur Tomasson (28/4 1921). He started the collection of the artefacts and houses of the open-air museum and has not stopped yet. In 2005 thirteen houses were standing on the musum grounds. His great literary achievements are mainly based on old traditons, sociology, demography, museology and mythology. In 1997 he was deservedly awarded honourary doctorate of the University of Iceland.
After having enjoyed the well-organized Folk Museum, the visitors usually visit the sod farm to see how people lived in the past. In the slopes behind it are more “modern” dwellings from other parts of the district.
The pride of the museum is the church, which was consecrated in 1998. It depicts the most common church architecture of the past and all its possessions belonged to older churches, which have disappeared. It is safe to assert, that a tour of Iceland is incomplete without visiting this museum. Open daily June to August 09:00-19:00. May and September 10: to 17:00 October to April by arrangement.
The sod farm is a collection of houses from different farms in the area. It is a beautiful combination of a three gabled farm connected to the forth house to the east, a cross-constructed cow shed from the farm Hus in the Holt County. It has a heavy, flat stone over the door as was usual in the past. The sod farm therefore not an exact replica of any specified old farm. The westernmost house is a black-tarred gable with three white painted windows. Originally it is the guest quarters of the farm at Nordur-Gotur of the Myrdalur Valley (1896). In the middle is a so-called “Badstofa”, eating, sleeping and working quarters of the people, at the farm Arnarholl in the Landeyjar County (1895). It has one white painted window on a black-tarred gable, which does not reach the ground. Quite a few species of flowers decorate the stonewalls of this part of the farm, among them roseroots, which were believed to protect houses against fires. The third house in the row is a tool shed. In front of this romantic combination is an artificial well with a winch from the farm Hvoll in the Myrdalur Valley (1896).
The Skal farm is situated behind the sod farm, which shows along with the other two houses, the next era of the architectural development of the farms in the southern part of the country. The gables are high with white painted corrugated iron, which points to the early 20th century. The Skal farm was the westernmost farm of the Sida County. It is remarkable for its cow shed “Badstofa”, i.e. with the cowshed underneath the sleeping-, eating- and working quarters. It also contains a living room and a kitchen. It was built in 1919-1920 and was occupied until 1970. It was moved to Skogar in 1987 and rebuilt there during the next few years.
The farm Grof from the Skaftartunga County stands besides the Skal farm. It is a beautiful house with a black-tarred gable and white painted windows. Originally it was a shed of the farm, built around 1840, and is unusual for its time because of the front is constructed of wood boards and the loft is clincher roofed. Home-prepared driftwood was used solely. At Grof it sometimes was used as guest quarters. Thorlakur, the farmer, who died of hypothermia on Maelifellssandur in 1868, often invited his best guests to enjoy refreshments there. The shed serves its original purpose on the museum’s grounds. The floor of the shed is dirt as was the custom in the past.
The Magistrate’s House from Holt. Furthest up in the slope is a totally different house. It was the abode of the magistrate at Holt with black-tarred walls, white painted windows and a red painted roof with a garret. At the gables are man high stonewalls. Arni Gislason, the magistrate of the district, built the house in 1878. He resided at Kirkjubaejarklaustur, but owned Holt and practiced farming there. The house was built of driftwood on stone foundations. It was the first wooden house of the district. Its area is only 40 m square, but looks much larger. It accommodated a family of 18 people in 9 beds. A clinched “Badstofa” and the sleeping quarters of the lady and master of the house were in the attic. Downstairs was a kitchen, dining room and guest quarters. Such houses probably were colder during winter than the sod houses, because they are insulated with moss from the lava fields and hay. The only heating was the stove, which came much later. The cooking was done in a separate house until after the turn of the 19th century. Originally the roof was covered with thin lava blocks. They were replaced by corrugated iron close to the end of the century. The house was occupied until 1974 and five years later, Thordur had it disassembled and its restoration was finished in 1980 at Skogar.
The house underwent a few changes during the years. One of its occupants increased the number of windows and in 1910, the interior was panelled. During the restoration at Skogar the original panelling, boards from the masts of the hospital ship St. Pauli, which ran aground at the estuaries of River Kudafljot in 1899, were reinstalled. When the house stood at Holt it had a cellar made of stones, but in Skogar it was made of concrete. The wooden front of the house, made of broad, tarred boards, was removed from the church at Kalfholt and dates back to 1879.
One of the kitchen appliances, a simmer box for the pots after the food had been brought to boiling, always attracts attention. It was used mainly to save firewood. The stove was brought from the farm Teigur in the Fljotshlid County in 1910. The table in the living room stood in the parsonage at Oddi and the mahogany table in the guest quarters stood in the farm Skardshlid. The sofa stood in the farm Bergthorshvoll and was made of driftwood.
The Museum Church, a short distance to the east, is small and plain and depicts the ancient church architecture. This is, however, a beautiful house as well as the remarkably well-constructed wall around it. All the artefacts of the church are a collection of old things from other churches, but the exterior is new. The interior decorations determined the size and shape of the house, which is the same size as the last church at Skogar, which was demolished in 1890. The wooden and winged altarpiece is the church’s most precious possession. Reverend Sigurdur Jonsson acquired it for the church at Holt in 1768 and was kept there until 1888, until it was moved to the church at Asolfsskali. The architect of the new church there (consecrated in 1954) did not include it and it was stored in the steeple. Two beautiful chalices from the churches at Steinar and the former church at Skogar (1600) decorate the church. Two bells are hanging in the belfry, one from Asar in the Skaftartunga County (1742), and the other from the church at Hofdabrekka in the Myrdalur County (1600). The latter was saved from the Katla eruption in 1660.
The Old Schoolhouse originally stood at Vatnsskardsholar in the Myrdalur County (1901) and was moved to farm Hvammur in 1903. In 1907 it was raised 50 cm and the windows were enlarged to let more light in at the time TB raged in the country. A similar schoolhouse still stands at farm Mulakot in the Sida County (1907) and another one was moved from farm Deildara in the Myrdalur County to the Hofdabrekka summer grazings to accommodate the farmers when they round up the sheep late in summer.
The smithy was rebuilt by Tomas Thordarson from farm Vallnatun (the father of curator Thordur Tomasson), later living at farm Selkot, after he started farming at Skogar in 1959 and frequently used for forging and iron work. The restoration of the exterior of the smithy was finished in 2002, and is the most recent addition to the sod house complex.
The Communications Museum was opened on July 20th 2002. It depicts the development of communications and technology in Iceland during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its main goal is to collect and exibit communication related memoriabilia. It already exibits a wide range of saddlery and harnesses, the first car and boat engines, old cars, road construction machinery and vehicles, tools and travel gear, old motorbikes, electrical equipment, generators, turbines and other artefacts related to the first attempts at harnessing streams for the production of electricity. The history of postal services and radio and telephone communications also play