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The Library of Water

3 min read

In the sleepy little town of Stykkishólmur, Iceland, is a very interesting long-term project known in the native Icelandic as “Vatnasafn” or “Library of Water”. It is a very interesting project that has set out to capture the spirit of Iceland through its waters, weather, and words. Located in a former library building built on a coastal promontory, this installation by American artist Roni Horn, is both an art piece and natural history collection, and it was created in 2007.

There are three parts to the exhibition, the beautiful building and view, the floor which is covered with weather terms both in English and Icelandic, weather reports and finally the collection of water.
One area collects audio recordings (accompanied by visual displays) of Icelandic weather as reported by the local people around the town of Stykkishólmur, creating an interactive self-portrait of the area.
However, the centerpiece of the site is the “Library of Water” which is kept in floor-to-ceiling clear cylinders. Each pillar standing throughout the main room is filled with water that was melted from one of Iceland’s 24 glaciers (including the now extinct Ok glacier). Every tube holds the liquid of a single glacier, allowing visitors to take a sort of tour all across Iceland right in one room.

When you enter the exhibit the towering columns of mostly clear water force you to think about these resources in a different way. It shows how temporal nature and the weather can really be. With the worries of retreating and disappearing glaciers, to have a collection of a small slice of hydrological history is really unique.
The lower floor of the Library of Water is a private writers’ studio where each year writers are invited to spend a some months living and working. The residencies alternate between Iceland-based and overseas writers, and have so far included Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir, Rebecca Solnit, Anne Carson, Oskar Arni Oskarsson and Oddny Eir Ævarsdóttir.
The website for the exhibit has a great map and a slideshow of where all the water came from.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://www.libraryofwater.is

Author’s note: tickets should be purchased from the volcano museum in the centre of town, where you will be given a code to unlock the door to the library at the top of the hill.

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