The Icelandic Emigration Centre
The Icelandic Emigration Centre at Hofsos opened in 1996 and the scale of its operations has expanded every year since. Now visitors are treated to four permanent exhibitions in three grand buildings in the old village centre, entitled: Prairies Wide and Free, Silent Flashes, New Land New Life and The Stephansson Study.
All sorts of services are offered on site, including a conference room, library and shop. The souvenir shop is situated in the same place as the old co-operative used to be – a fitting continuation of the building’s trading tradition.
The library is a great resource for visiting students, as well as those with just a casual interest in the stories and statistics behind the emigration. Almost all the books were donated to the Icelandic Emigration Centre by well wishers in Iceland, North America and all over the world.
Everyone will find something to their liking at the Icelandic Emigration Centre, whether thirsty for knowledge, itching for fun – or a bit of both.
There is also a powerful genealogy database onsite, which has helped many people revive old family ties which have been lost during the great westward migration of the Icelanders to North America between 1870 and 1914.
The emigres fled their homeland out of sheer desperation, as Icelanders suffered terribly during the latter half of the 19th century. Years of unusually cold summers and extreme, stormy winters were compounded by the 1875 eruption of the Askja volcano. The eruption covered much of eastern Iceland in ash, poisoned the soil and killed livestock.
People in rural, remote Iceland were literally starving, and ready to leave behind all they had ever known in search of better lives in the New World. By 1914, a full one fifth of the Icelandic population had emigrated. The First World War put an end to the emigration and caused the first economic exports boom in the country, despite the fact that Iceland was not directly involved in the war.
The Icelandic Emigration Centre's main goal has always been to take the leading role in establishing and maintaining relations between Icelanders and people of Icelandic origin in Canada and the United States.
Guided tours are available on request and the dedicated staff are a great source of information on the entire Skagafjord region.
The Icelandic Emigration Centre is open 11.00-18.00 every day from 1st June to 1st September.
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