Welcome to Eldheimar, a museum of remembrance.
The exhibition focuses on the 1973 volcanic eruption in Vestmannaeyjar, without a doubt one of Iceland´s biggest natural disaster. Visitors get a glimpse into peoples lives on Heimaey before the eruption that would change their lives forever. The people of Heimaey had to leave their homes in the middle of the night and evacuate the island, many of them never saw their homes or any of their belongings ever again.
The eruption started in the early hours of January 23rd 1973 on the island of Heimaey, the only inhabited island of the Vestmannaeyjar islands and it lasted for 5 months. Lava and ash destroyed almost 400 homes and businesses, a third of all buildings on Heimaey. While the eruption lasted no one knew if the island would ever be populated again.
Before the eruption the population on Heimaey was around 5.300 people. The entire population, apart from about 200 rescue workers who stayed behind, fled to the mainland to live with relatives or in temporary housing where they waited in anguish for what the future would bring.
News of the eruption, that permanently would change the island, traveled fast around the world and when it finally finished, reporters, tourist and scientists from all over the world flocked to Heimaey to see with their own eyes how powerful nature can be. Lava and ash covered 2,5 km2, about 20%, of the island, and a new volcano, Eldfell, had risen 220m tall and Heimaey was now 2 km2 bigger than before.
Now 40 years later Eldheimar open up, a museum of remembrance, giving visitors the chance to go back in time and learn about this dramatic event. The highlight of the exhibition is the house on Gerðisbraut 10, the home to Mrs. Gerður Sigurðardóttir and Mr. Guðni Ólafsson and their 3 young children. With the youngest one only a few weeks old they were forced to leave their home in the middle of the night taking with them only a bottle for the baby. A few days later their home had drowned in ash and lava. Gerðisbraut 10, after being buried in ash and lava for over 40 years, has now been excavated and shows how cruelly nature treated the homes of so many islanders.
The show also covers the Surtsey eruption, the island that emerged from the ocean south of Heimaey in 1963. The Surtsey eruption lasted for almost 4 years and ever since only scientists have been allowed on the island in order to monitor how new ecosystems come to life.
Surtsey was inscribed as a natural property on UNESCO’s World Heritage List during the 32nd session of the The World Heritage Committee in July 2008.