September 5, 1930
In preparation for a forthcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum Miss Elizabeth Haynes, Curator of Decorative Arts, spent a month in Europe from which she has just returned, studying collections of peasant arts in various museums. Some of her time was spent in Scotland and England, visiting the English manor houses, and the rest in the French chateau country, in connection with her regular work in charge of the Decorative Arts Department at the Museum. She went to the continent by way of Iceland where she attended the Thousand Year Celebration.
When interviewed ct the Museum she said: "The Icelanders had an interesting way of calling this 'The Millenary Celebration' which always sounded odd until one saw it spelled. The Celebration proper consisted of speeches, pageants and singing, all staged in a dramatic spot between two high cliffs. This site was the spot where the Icelanders held their first Parliament one thousand years ago, commemoration of which was the reason for this year's festival.
"This site is on the Plain of Thingvellir thirty miles from Reykjavik, the principal city and port. We were all tremendously impressed with the remarkable foresight of the organization of the country for this occasion. A special road was built from the town to the plain to accommodate hundreds of cars. The tremendous influx of tourists doubled the population and one can get an idea of what this means if you can conceive of dumping seven million extra people in the City of New York and providing for them adequately. In only one place did we find the supplies exhausted and this was in the comparatively unimportant case of air-mail stamps.
The Community had to buy all kinds of extra equipment even to such details as extra mail bags to carry the enormously increased correspondence. They even bought aeroplanes to be used commercially later, for the transportation of tourists and I took one to a fishing village 150 miles away and thus got a particularly fine impression of the country. We were heartily received at the village, as the whole population turned out. We were the second plane to arrive there in their experience.
"Southern Iceland is absolutely treeless and has large areas of lava beds. The only vegetation is moss and sometimes grass. I was surprised to learn that this country is one of the most recent sections of the world from the geological viewpoint and is one of the three important thermal districts of the world. This brings to mind the fact that dairies are profitable industries there as no fuel is necessary for the very essential steam, as this is combined from hot water geysers. When the Icelandic housewife wants to bake bread she merely kneads the dough, puts it in a pail and sinks it in the ground where it bakes by itself.
"Even the boat trip was unusual, previously only about three or four ships ever having touched at Iceland from this continent and it was the first time that our captain had made the voyage. Many of our companions were returning Icelanders who went away as young people to receive their training abroad and were now returning home to help develop the country. We found they were all well educated and greatly prized their old sagas. In general we decided that the Icelanders were an intelligent hospitable, kind and honest lot.
"0f course there was the midnight sun which needed particularly remarkable one hight after coming out of the theatre into the golden glow of late afternoon. The Icelanders maintain a good stock company there all the year round.
"Even our living quarters were a well-thought-out part of the intelligent plan of taking care of the visitors. They were all new buildings as the Icelanders had taken advantage of the occasion to do much new construction which would be valuable after the Celebration. I stayed in what will soon be the new hospital and we dined in the new x-ray rooms. It happened that the electricity had not yet been installed, but, of course, that made little difference with the midnight sun shining till all hours. We were told by doctors in our party that the hospital was the last word in installation. The building will be heated from the hot springs.
"One of the interesting sights of the island was the Einar Jonssen Museum, their famous sculptor who has done so many well-known figures of vikings. He did the one that is now standing in Fairmount Park Philadelphia.
"As to the food, we had all varieties. One very popular kind, that I did not relish particularly, was the pickled whale meat which looked like pickled watermelon rind. There was always an abundance of coffee. As practically no fresh food is grow on the island everything has to be imported, such as potatoes from Italy, beets from Denmark and canned peaches from California.
"We were particularly amused while in the bank one day when we addressed a stately-looking individual whom we thought might understand English. It turned out that he was a former Chicago policeman and was asked to come back to the country to take charge of the special bodyguard to the King of Denmark when he came to the Celebration."
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1916 - 1930. 07-09_1930, 118-20. View Original