Perlan: Wonders of Iceland

Story: Betty Brennan
Photography: Betty Brennan
Wednesday, August 28, 2019

In May 2018 I got off a red-eye flight to Iceland and headed straight to the Perlan Museum – The Wonders of Iceland. It’s an easy museum to spot because it sits on the capital city, Reykjavik’s, highest hill south of the city. Its architecture is iconic with its dome and historic water towers. I was on my way to celebrate the grand opening of exhibits put together by an international team of museum experts. The first item of celebration was a bus tour of Iceland that was to leave at 8:00 a.m. I was cutting it close to missing the bus. They waited for me and I even got a brief opportunity to pop into the museum to see 32’ high replica of the Latrabjarg cliff covered with over 200 bird models and their poop. Wow!

The story doesn’t start there though. I own Taylor Studios, Inc. we plan, design and fabricate exhibits. About a year before my visit to the museum we were contracted by Xhibitz to fabricate glacier models, the replica giant cliff, bird models and plants. The glacier models were our first items to produce. We worked closely with Icelandic scientists to make sure we got it right. Before producing the rock wall one of our artists made a trip to the Latrabjarg cliffs to get photographs, talk to scientists and to establish a vision for this exhibit. The behind-the-scenes of museum work is intense and accurate. This museum wants to stay abreast of the latest research and scientific findings.

During the fabrication of the cliff exhibit, Gunnar Gunnarsson and others from the museum visited our shop to inspect our work. They were very concerned about the details and were highly involved in creating the best exhibits. Gunnar is one of the founders of the museum and is a high energy visionary. His vision to reuse the historic water tower building and to bring nature to visitors is very inspirational. His goal was to have the biggest and best museum in Iceland. He achieved it.

After an exciting day of touring the sites of Iceland around Reykjavik, we were treated to dinner at the museum. They have an excellent restaurant, café and gift shop. The view from the restaurant is incredible. The next day after some badly needed sleep I finally got more time to explore the museum.

The museum houses a one of a kind ice cave with snow and ice from the Icelandic mountains. This is a guided tour. They even offer coats you must don before entering the exhibit. It’s very cold in there and I imagine it helps the guide keep an eye on visitors. The ice cave is an incredible exhibit where you learn the secrets of glaciers, how they move and form their past and uncertain future. The guide is knowledgeable, friendly and shares antidotal stories making the experience unique and personal.

My next stop was the glacier gallery with its 180-degree immersive technological exhibit. It’s a curved interactive wall. Visitors drive their own experience by simply pointing at specific areas of the Icelandic mountains and glaciers depicted on the wall. Once you point at an area the wall changes and you zoom in on more details about glaciers. This gallery includes our glacier models and many other things to explore.

The Latrabjarg Cliff exhibit is a big wow. Many visitors to Iceland will never have an opportunity to visit the cliffs in person, just like the ice cave. This gives them a realistic immersive experience of one of Europe’s largest bird cliffs. It’s an environmentally important part of Iceland as 40% of some species of birds live there. This exhibit also includes augmented reality in which you can scan the cliff with a viewer and experience birdlife as if you were there.

Other exhibits throughout the museum are impressive. They immerse you into volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, water and geothermal. Utilization of the latest and greatest technology and audio/visual presentations brings the content to life. You will feel, see and smell the experience. The planetarium wasn’t open when I visited but since has. It was produced by Bowen Technovation, a world premiere technology firm. It offers 3D sound and one of the several shows is on the Northern Lights.

The fourth floor offers an observation deck with great views of Reykjavik and the surrounding natural environment. There are many observation signs sharing points of interest you can see from the deck. There are viewing binoculars too. It’s the best view in the city.

The museum is easily accessible for any age group, disability, and transportation. There’s plenty of parking or you can take the free shuttle from Reykjavik. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Even though I am biased I highly recommend visiting this museum. It is world-class and enjoyed by over a million visitors a year. The museum staff is friendly, helpful and enthusiastic about giving you the best experience you could have. It is one of the best natural history scientific museums I’ve had the honor of enjoying.

The celebration of our exhibit opening will be a life-long fond memory. The hospitality of our Icelandic friends is incomparable. They even set me up with an Icelandic horse ride. A friend visiting Rekjavik got the same hospitality at the museum. He was overjoyed. Go visit. I guarantee a memorable experience.

Address: Öskjuhlíð, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland
Taylor Studios/Perlan Exhibit:

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