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Húsavík Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition opens to the public

The first rooms have been revealed, coinciding with the song selection for Söngvakeppnin, the Icelandic Eurovision Song selection event.

Opinion
Introduction Eurovision Song Contest Museum Iceland

By Rachel Mackay 

On Friday 15 October, judges from RÚV, the Icelandic broadcaster, travelled to Húsavík, on the north coast of Iceland. They had chosen the small fishing town, made famous by the Netflix movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, as the location to select the songs for Söngvakeppnin, the popular national song competition. The winner of this will then go on to represent Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin 2022.

With so much Eurovision energy focussed on Húsavík, the timing was perfect to finally unveil the initial stages of the Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition. Tourists and members of the local community were given their first chance to explore the exhibition, as two of the four spaces were opened to the public.

The project has been a labour of love for Örlygur Örlygsson and his small team. It has also drawn global attention as the first museum of its kind in the world.

Iceland in Eurovision

The new spaces opened last week included the introduction space. This welcomes visitors into the exhibition and to the Contest with a selection of emotive quotes. The second space is a gallery that celebrates Iceland’s enthusiastic contribution to the Contest since they first entered in 1986.

Iceland in Eurovision
Icelandic display at the Húsavík Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition

The eternal optimism, enthusiasm and good-natured humour of the Icelanders are evident in the exhibition text:

“We Icelanders are an optimistic bunch. We sit on a highly active volcanic rock close to the Arctic Circle, after all. Therefore, it is no surprise that we approached the Eurovision Song Contest the same way.

“In 1986, we competed for the first time in the Contest. No expense was spared. The most expensive music video in the history of Iceland was produced, the top designer was recruited to design costumes, and Icelandic journalists flocked to Bergen reporting every positive mention of Iceland’s entry. In the days leading up to the contest, it became increasingly clear that we were “definitely” going to win.”

Enthusiastic fans

The Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition goes on to celebrate some of the great Icelandic acts that were “definitely” going to win. (Iceland, despite their enthusiasm, have yet to win Eurovision).

Iceland in Eurovision exhibition
Icelandic display at the Húsavík Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition

Highlights of the Iceland gallery include the achingly 90s coloured suit jackets worn by Stefan and Eyfi, Johanna’s famous blue dress from her 2009 performance of Is it True? and weapons from the aggressive 2019 metal act Hatari. Perhaps most recognisable to a modern audience are the iconic pixelated portrait jumpers and futuristic instruments belonging to 2020 favourites Daði og Gagnamagnið.

Opening day for the Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition

Greta Salome at Eurovision museum
Örlygsson and Salome at the exhibition opening

No doubt the content on display provided some inspiration for the RÚV committee. They spent Friday morning at the exhibition running through the entries and selecting their favourite songs for Söngvakeppnin.

The galleries officially opened at 7 pm, celebrated with a radio broadcast and a live performance in the Exhibition space from Greta Salome, who has twice represented Iceland at Eurovision.

Salome performed her classic Hear them Calling from the 2016 Contest. She also gave a nod to the film that has made this small town famous by singing Húsavík. The song from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga was nominated for Best Song at the 2021 Oscars.

Salome was joined on stage by the Húsavík Girls’ Choir and the evening finished with a Eurovision themed pub quiz.

Future plans

Now, work continues on the two spaces yet to open; the gallery dedicated to Netflix’s Fire Saga, as well as the main exhibition space exploring the history of the Eurovision Song Contest itself. Building on this initial success, Örlygsson will also look to host a variety of events in this main space. These will range from live performances to Eurovision karaoke.

News of the opening has already spread on social media, with many Eurovision enthusiasts stating their intention to visit soon. So, how will Örlygsson plan the continuing works in the spaces around these visits?

“We will work on the big exhibit over the winter, but guests who come to Húsavík, they can of course come and see what we are working on. It’s been enjoyable for all these months to have all these people coming in and some of them have even made suggestions about things that we have followed up.”

Iceland_in Eurovision
Daði og Gagnamagnið objects on display at the Húsavík Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition

“So, we have had a lot of input throughout the process. We didn’t expect it to be like this. We thought that we would just build the project and then open. But the enthusiasm has been so great that there’s no way for us – when someone knocks and the door and we can see in their eyes how excited they are – of course, we let them in.”

Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition will open fully in March 2022

The full opening of the exhibition is scheduled for March 2022, which will also coincide with Söngvakeppnin itself.

For Örlygsson, the goal of the exhibition is very simple:

“My hope is that people leave with a big smile on their face. Eurovision brings such joy, and in the times that we’ve been going through for the past one and a half years; that is so important”.

You can follow the progress of the Húsavík Eurovision Song Contest Museum on Twitter @eurohusavik.

All photos courtesy of Örlygur Örlygsson and the Húsavík Eurovision Song Contest Exhibition

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Rachel Mackay

Rachel Mackay manages Historic Royal Palaces at Kew, looking after four historic sites including Kew Palace. In 2020, she created The Recovery Room (therecoveryroomblog.com) to share research and resources as the museum sector recovers from the impact of the pandemic. She was recently named one of Blooloop’s top 50 museum influencers.

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