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Student: Ingunn Jónsdóttir

Teacher: Arjen Kok

Participative Collecting
Reinwardt Academy 2010

The Family Museum

Mission Statement
The family museum is a platform on an equal level, where every member of the family is encouraged
to participate. It is intended for exchanging stories and any type of material related to the family. The
museum´s main mission is to strengthen family ties and to inform the family about their relatives as
well as informing outsiders with a general interest in the subject of families - It is a living
documentation of family life now and then.

On the Photos Selected

-a collecting report including a statement of significance for each photo

According to the assignment and its emphasis on participative collecting, I decided only
to start the actual collecting after arriving in Iceland for the holidays. During my stay there
over Christmas I had the chance to meet members of my family and discuss with them the
content of the assignment. On the 17th of December, the day after my arrival in Reykjavik, I
told my parents and my siblings about the assignment. The short explanation led to a lively
discussion on how museums collect and the theories of participative collecting. Everyone
got excited and later the same night my parents sat down with me and we went through
family photo albums together, with the newest individual pictures dating from the year 2009
and the oldest pictures dating to the early 19th century. The oldest albums are from my great
grandparents on my mother´s side which studied and lived in both Berlin and Copenhagen,
thus there are many photographs in their albums showing their Danish and German friends -
people that the family does not recognize anymore. It is at the same time mysterious and sad
to go through old family photos of people that no one in the family can name anymore. At
the same time it indicates a strong message for us today to document our family heritage in
a more cohesive and complete way. But when it came to the actual choosing of photographs,
my family members were puzzled. There are many photographs in folders and some loose
which quality is very varied, some early colour photos are almost disappearing due to bad
development quality or their exposure to daylight, while others have turned red. Then there
is the general responsibility of which photographs to select; because when one is chosen,
other ones are left out. Besides the fact that every family has their own issues, some being
very sensitive; unresolved issues, sicknesses and people that have passed away very

On the 27th of December, there was a large family gathering on my mother´s side of the
family. Her two sisters, Finna Dóra and Áslaug were present, my father and Rúnar (the
husband of Finna Dóra). Each of the three couples has either three or four children who now
have children; therefore over 30 relatives were present. At one point I brought up the
subject of the family museum and people became interested. The excitement did not come as
a surprise - there are few people more attracted to family history and genealogy than the
Icelandic, being a small nation that has strong family ties. In addition, story-telling is a
deep-rooted part of the Icelandic culture; a joke about Icelanders states that they are so
fixated on the past that it affects their daily lives in various ways, for example the way that
they drive. Icelandic people are said unable to use indicator lights before they turn, but use
them afterwards as to tell the story of the turn.
Finna Dóra, Áslaug and my mother are now the oldest women in our family, they organize
family parties and the three of them talk daily with each other on the phone, exchanging
news of their offspring and take the responsibility of informing their families.* As I sat
down with my mother and her sisters, special attention was paid to my great grandmother,
Guðfinna Gísladóttir (b.1870-d.1953) and I felt that the first decision about the selection
was about to form. They told me about her life; she was a daughter of merchants living in
the Vestmanna Island. While growing up in the small village she became fond of music and
learned how to play the guitar and harmonium. There were many foreign fishermen that
made short stops on the small island, some of which played instruments on the streets where
she picked up their songs. Later, as a young woman, she moved to the city of Reykjavík to
study at the Women´s School. There she finished her studies with a distinction in handicrafts
which led her to become a tailor and a seamstress. She moved to Copenhagen and worked
as a tailor for the Danish elite; once she made a garment for a fancy-dress ball made up of
thousands if not a million pieces of rose pedals. We are unsure of how long she lived in
Copenhagen, but it is noted in personal letters now belonging to the family that she spent the
millenium of 1900 there and that she met her husband to be in Copenhagen and that they got
married there in 1904. Guðfinna was a feminist, one of the founders of The Icelandic
Women’s Rights Association which dates to the year 1907. In 1924 my great grandfather
passed away which left her alone with two young children. Then she started renting out
rooms in her house and she cooked delicious food for the tenants. She also grew roses and
sold them and this was way before the time of flower shops. Her tactics included keeping
the rose plants in her windows as an advertisment which enticed people to come by and buy
her roses.

. plan was to photograph them together and use that photo in the five photo collection. I got the photo but
*My initial
unfortunately my camera got stolen later the same night
My mother remembers her grandmother as an old woman who lived on the top floor of her
childhood home. Once when my mother, as a four year old was asked what she wanted to
become when she grew up, she answered that she wanted to become a widow just like her
grandmother. She was scolded but when asked the reason she said that she thought it to be a
cozy life, lying in bed and taking foot baths “all the time”. Guðfinna kept an extensive diary
about my mother, which is very amusing to read. It includes words and funny remarks as
well as a list of the songs she knew right before she turned two years old.

Often when I meet with my aunts, they express how much I resemble my great grandmother.
Finna Dóra told me that when I get settled somewhere, she is going to pass on to me the
original of this photograph. It is a good feeling to be connected to history in a sort of a
tangible way and it is complimenting to be likened to such a pioneer.

After some thought, I suggested to my family that it was maybe not only about the
aesthetics of the photos but it could also be selected because it describes an era or a period.
Moreover, it could be a portrayal of the fashion of the times that the photo was captured or
that the photo could be of a person whose ideas have affected the descendants way of
thinking. What first came to our mind is the life story of my grandmother, Jóna Örnólfsdóttir
(b.1924). She was born in Skálavík, a small inlet in the West Fjords of Iceland. She grew up
at a farm that was very isolated, in fact so isolated that it was cut off from the nearest village
for the winter months due to bad weather conditions. Thus, from the age of nine, she had to
be away from her family during the winter months to attend school. She got the chance to
study until she was fourteen years old, when she had to start to make her own living. She
always stresses the importance of education; it has taught me to appreciate my opportunities
and to be thankful for the extent to which my parents have gone to assist me and my
siblings. My grandmother is photographed here by one of her sons in Skálavík, the small
bay in front of Breiðaból, the families’ old farm.
She knows the name of every single hill and waterfall in the bay; in fact she is more accurate
than the existing maps. When I asked my grandmother to tell me about her life while
growing up, she told me a story about when she saw cheese for the first time in her life.
There was a British ship that had stranded in the small inlet and the fishermen were
rescued by the farmers. The Brits were divided between the farms to sleep overnight. The
day after, my grandmother and her sister were playing in the attic. Her mother (my great
grandmother) came upstairs and left a dish with two slices of rye bread. The girls stopped
playing but when they looked at the bread, they thought that their mother had finally lost her
mind, putting slices of soap on the bread. They thought that the cheese, given by the British
fishermen as a token of appreciation, was soap - they had never seen anything like this

The third picture was chosen solely by me and is a long time favourite. It is taken in
1967 and shows my mother, Hjördís Inga Ólafsdóttir (b.1949) and my father, Jón Þorberg
Kristjánsson (b.1945). At the time when this picture was taken, my father had recently
moved from his birthplace Ísafjörður to Reykjavík, in order to study, but my mother was
born in the city. My parents met at the Art Academy where both of them studied fine arts.
When I asked them about the picture, they said they got it from their class mate a few years
after the photo was taken, in fact after they became a couple. The photo shows that they
have been working on the mounting of a school exhibition. I love this photo -there is nothing
fake about it, they are both laughing in the most sincere way. The period is also very present
in the way that they are dressed, in fact my parents could estimate the year from the way my
father is dressed -he is wearing a tie and according to himself he stopped wearing a tie on a
daily basis in 1968.

At Christmas, my father brought out a book that I had not seen before, a book which comes
with a history. Around fifteen years ago there was a program on the national radio where an
Icelandic writer read parts from an autobiography dating to the year 1931 by a man from the
West Fjords in Iceland, Reinald Kristjánsson (b.1866-d.1940). He is my great great grand-
father. The author introduced Reinald’s life and character to my family, which beforehand
knew little about him. Reinald and Örnólfur, his son in law, did not have a good relationship.
In fact, my grandmother Jóna only recalls seeing her grandfather once in her lifetime. When
my father heard these stories of his great grandfather, he had his picture enlarged and hung
it up in our house. It is a picture of Reinald in his postman uniform, fully equiped with his
horn and bag. The picture is approximately A3 sized and my grandmother says that it is not
far from being a life size Reinald, he was apparently not very tall. While reading the book
I found out that Reinald was born in poverty and became an orphan at an early age. In his
lifetime orphans were treated as animals and his foster parents were violent towards him.
From an early age Reinald made his living as a fisherman on an open boat and later worked
as a postman under harsh conditions. During his lifetime, he kept a diary of his daily life
including charts describing the records of his fisheries and the distances he rowed in nautical
miles. For example, in the year 1924 he caught 1850 codfish and 1355 catfish.

Reinald even includes a detailed equation stating the overall dimensions of his rowing on a
one persons rowboat. The outcome of the equation adds up to the travel around the world
following the 66° of latitude. Also, during the fourteen years working as a postman Reinald
took sixteen trips over Breidadalsheidi which is one of the most notorious mountain tracks
in Iceland - both because of its height, being aproximatly 600 m above sea level and due to
the bad weather conditions; Breidadalsheidi is in mountain area which is snowy even
during the summer months. (Nowadays the mountain has a road tunnel through it measuring
up to around 9 km.) In addition to the sixteen trips on duty, Reinald took 418 personal trips
over the mountain and got caught twice in an avalanche. The distances he walked and rowed
leaves one wondering whether he had some sort of supernatural powers. The descriptions
of the weather and his life struggle can hardly leave any reader the same, and is also a great
source about life and society in the 19th and early 20th Century.

The last photo selected is of my siblings; Auður Jónsdóttir (b.1970), Kristján Jónsson
(b.1974) and Ólafur Jónsson (b.1974). It is taken at our old apartment in the basement of my
grandparent’s home. The family, then consisting of five people lived in a three room
apartment the size of 35 m2, until they moved in August 1986 to a 120 m2 house my
parents built themselves. This photo was selected because we realised that the previously
selected photos represent four generations, they show the great great grandfather, the great
grandmother, the grandmother, the parents and now the siblings. Additionally, it is a good
representative of the late 70´s. The 1 litre glass coca cola bottle in the back, all the furniture
in their home that my father made and paintings by my parents in the back, their clothes, and
the cassette player. Nowadays my siblings have two children each and one of our favorite
hobbies include compering their children to themselves. Now when I look at the photo I not
only see them, but I see their sons and daughters.
Everyone in my closest family agreed on the photos selected. In addition, I discussed the
selection with my extended family members. The photos were selected based on the
information they provide; because of their subjects, they depict people that have had an
impact on our lives. However, I must admit that some problems were encountered while
choosing only five photographs. I developed a phobia of treating people differently and
making distinctions or divisions by leaving out branches of the family tree. I realise that by
choosing one over the other I am leaving something out and some fears occurred
concerning the selection of the five photos. I feared that my mother would get hurt if a photo
of her parents would not be included in this first selection. However, in the end, my fears
were unnecessary; we discussed the issue and she expressed that this would not matter to her.
She suggested the growth of the museum, the possibility of adding more content later on and
in addition to the five photos selected - for example to include pictures of the places where
people grew up and where they lived. She also agreed with me on having a family tree for
further explanation and for reference as to illustrate the family ties visually and in a more
cohesive way. Moreover, the family all agreed on that this could be the start of something that
would grow naturally with time and that this is only the beginning, a foundation that has been
made but not the real end of the project. Other projects suggested by my family include a
Guðfinna look-alike contest where women in the family do their hair and dress the same way
as Guðfinna with photos taken and a committee that selects a winner.

On the subject of presentation, there is always the possibility of presenting the photos in a
blog I share with my siblings. It is a vivid platform for us to exchange thoughts and
photographs. It has proven to be an important communication tool for us as it has been
operating for almost five years now. However, the optimal way of presenting the photos and
the family history would be with a specially programmed website, where photos and stories
could be presented in an organized way with the web 2.0 enviroment explored to the
fullest. That would include a forum or a chat and a way for family members to upload their
own photos and other data. In addition, links would be made to existing blogs of relatives, as
it would add another dimension to the museum. Making a professional website from scratch
is necessary to be able to include as many people as possible.

On the following pages, there is a suggestion on the design of the website.

family tree photographs stories chat

Guðfinna Gísladóttir
b. 1870-1953
family tree photographs stories chat

Jóna Örnólfsdóttir Kristján J. M. Jónsson

All the people that
have had their photo/
text info uploaded get
a red dot (or some kind
of distinction) in order
for users to see if any
content has been added Jón Þ. Magnús Margrét Indriði Hörður Kristján F.
Kristjánsson Kristjánsson Kristjánsdóttir Kristjánsson Kristjánsson Kristjánsson

Born 12.03.1945. Married to Hjördís Ólafsdóttir 4.03.1971.

Jón Þorberg Kristjánsson was
born in Ísafjörður, Iceland in
12.03.1945 to Jóna Örnólfsdót-
tir and Kristján J.M. Jónsson. He
studied fine arts at the
Icelandic Art Academy in the
When you choose years 1967-1971. There he met
a name from the his wife to be, Hjördís Ólafsdót-
family tree, the tir. They got married in 1971.
name lights up and They have four children; Auður,
pictures pop up Kristján, Ólafur and Ingunn and
On the right hand side six grandchildren.
there is general info
about the person
On the left hand side
there is info about the

upload a picture

Users can upload

their own pictures
by pushing this
Collecting Guidelines
-A general outline

Geographic scope
As most of the family members come from Iceland, the main focus will be on telling the
story of the family while shading a light on Icelandic cultural heritage. However, as some
family members are not originally Icelandic and some members of the family have lived or
travelled abroad, the museum is open to any acquisitions connected to different cultures.

Listings and documentation of the collection are made available in a specially programmed
part of the online family museum.

Types of material collected

The museum collects photographs in a digital form, that are connected to the family history.
Each photo´s size must not exceed 2 MB. Every family member is allowed to upload photos.

The museum collects stories about family members. Every family member can upload their
text files.

Audio Visual Material

The museum does not yet have a collection of audio visual material. The museum aims for
starting to collect audio visual material in the year of 2013. Family members are however
encouraged to share their audio visual material by other means, by publishing them on the
internet (for example on and referring them via our website´s forum.

Restricitions and opportunities

Nothing is published without the permition of copyright owners and if someone objects to
the publication of a photo, it should be taken down as soon as possible.

Members of the family that are fluent with computers and technology conduct informal
courses where they teach those less experienced.

January 2010
Photo registration:
1. A digital colour scan of the book cover, Á sjó og landi I og II, 1931. Owned by Jón Þor-
berg Kristjánsson

2. Digital scan of a photograph of Guðfinna Gísladóttir in black and white. Photographer

unknown. Owned by Guðfinna Dóra Ólafsdóttir.

3. Digital scan of a colour photograph of Jóna Örnólfsdóttir. Photographer and copyright:

Hörður Kristjánsson. 2007. Owned by Hörður Kristjánsson.

4. Digital scan of a black and white photograph of Jón Þorberg Kristjánsson and Hjördís
Inga Ólafsdóttir. Photographer and copyright Elísabet Guðmundsdóttir 1967. Owned by Jón
Þorberg Kristjánsson and Hjördís Inga Ólafsdóttir

5. Digital scan of a colour photograph of Auður Jónsdóttir, Kristján Jónsson and Ólafur
Jónsson. Photographer and copyright: Hjördís Ólafsdóttir. 1980. Owned by Auður Jónsdóttir.