Below is a summary of the development of the Heritage Museum. If, however, you wish to find out more about its history, the information may be found in the volume Byggðasöfn á Íslandi (in Icelandic).
The Hafnarfjörður Port Fund acquires the Sívertsens building. The Sívertsens building subsequently housed the Hafnarfjörður Municipal Authorities from 1930 to 1944.
Ownership of the building was transferred to the Town Council, which was tasked with renovating and preserving it as it had originally been.
Ágúst Steingrímsson sent a letter to Málfundafélagið Magni (NGO) regarding the idea of moving the Sívertsens building to Hellisgerði (a park in Hafnarfjörður) to preserve the building there and use it as a heritage museum. Magni members, who were responsible for and operated Hellisgerði at the time, sent the municipal authorities their proposal regarding the matter and declared their readiness to discuss options.
The Town Council agreed to submit a proposal to the Hafnarfjörður authorities to the effect that the town become a partner in an agreement for the examination of transportation and preservation of the Bjarni Sívertsens building. Just over a month later, this proposal was approved by the Hafnarfjörður authorities. Members of the committee included, in addition to representatives from the Municipal Authorities, Málfundarfélagið Magni, Útgerðarmannafélag Hafnarfjarðar (Association of Hafnarfjörður Vessel Operators), Iðnaðarmannafélag Hafnarfjarðar (Association of Hafnarfjörður Tradesmen) and Kaupmannafélag Hafnarfjarðar (Association of Hafnarfjörður Retailers).
The formal establishment of the Hafnarfjörður Heritage Museum can be traced to the meeting of the Hafnarfjörður authorities in January 1953. The meeting discussed amendments to the municipal budget, and the representatives of Alþýðuflokkur (the Social Democratic Party) submitted a proposal under the item “Hellisgerði, etc.” which stated under item c thereunder that ISK 10,000 should be allocated to the Heritage Museum.
A Heritage Museum Committee was elected by the Hafnarfjörður authorities on 14 April 1953. Members were Óskar Jónsson, Gísli Sigurðsson and Kristinn J. Magnússon, and their role was to establish the museum. From the very beginning, ideas were put forward to settle the museum in the Sívertsens building at Vesturgata.
Once an agreement had been reached to create the Hafnarfjörður Heritage Museum in 1953, work began on collecting items in the town. It was well known, however, that a number of items still remained in the homes of residents. One of the reasons for establishing the museum was that there were some concerns that these items would be lost if not collected and preserved in a museum setting. In addition, information on the living conditions and culture of Hafnarfjörður had been collected for some time, and the news of the establishment of the museum had been documented in these collections.
During the summer of 1955, Hafnarfjörður authorities agreed to allocate the building to the Hafnarfjörður Heritage Museum. The decision however, only applied to the ground floor, as due to lack of housing in the town, the decision was made to house “homeless persons” on the upper floor.
In 1965, it was finally possible to clear the Sívertsens building and begin repairs. Early in 1965, the Hafnarfjörður Rotary Club was given permission by the local authorities to begin repairs and to restore it to its original condition in co-operation with the Municipal Engineer and the Director of the National Museum. The Rotary Club established an association named “Hús Bjarna Riddara” to manage the project, which was headed by Gunnar Ágústsson, the Port Director.
A lack of funds delayed the work, and finally, the local authorities decided that the Hafnarfjörður Treasury would take on the work and finish the remainder of the project. This proposal was approved by the association “Hús Bjarna Riddara”.
The opening of the museum was a part of the celebration held in Hafnarfjörður to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of Iceland’s settlement, and the inauguration of the building was the opening event of the celebrations.
Sigríður Erlendsdóttir met with the Heritage Museum Committee and offered to donate her house to the museum.
Sigríður died and left her house, Siggubær, to the museum, with certain conditions attached. The case posed some dilemma for the authorities for a while.
Bæjarráð tók loks afstöðu í málinu og samþykktu á fundi sínum 20. júní 1985 að afþakka gjöfina
The Town Council changed its mind in February 1988 and decided to make Siggubær a part of the Hafnarfjörður Heritage Museum. Funds were allocated in the budget to repair the premises.
The exhibition policy of the buildings of the museum was quite clear from the beginning. The Sívertsens building shows how an upper-class family in Hafnarfjörður lived at the beginning of the 19th century, as well as providing information on the important history of Bjarni Sívertsen and his family. Siggubær, however, shows how the general public lived at the beginning of the 20th century and what the typical corrugated iron-clad wooden housing looked like.
At this time, the museum still had not obtained an exhibition hall to install exhibitions on the history of the town. This was remedied in 1988 when the museum obtained the premises at Vesturgata 8, usually referred to as “Riddarinn” (the Knight). The building, however, was not ideal for exhibitions, although several smaller exhibitions were displayed there over the next few years.
On the occasion of Hafnafjörður’s 80th anniversary of municipal status, Siggubær was opened as a Hafnarfjörður Heritage Museum with the purpose of showing future generations how working-class families in Hafnarfjörður lived in the early part of the 20th century.
Exhibitions in Riddarinn ceased in 1992 when the local authorities made the decision to change the building into an information centre for tourists. This meant that it would no longer be the responsibility of the Heritage Museum.
For the first time, the Hafnarfjörður Heritage Museum acquired an acceptable permanent exhibition hall when it was granted long-awaited exhibition and storage premises in Smiðja, Strandgata 50.
Smiðjan was enlarged.
Smiðjan was enlarged yet again, providing two exhibition rooms together with excellent storage space and offices within Smiðjan.
As a result of the closing of the Icelandic Maritime Museum, exhibition operations in the Heritage Museum were moved from Smiðjan over to Bryde-pakkhús (Bryde Depot) at Vesturgata 6, and the museum was allocated storage facilities in the town’s service centre at Hringhella.
The storage facilities of the museum were sold, and the museum instead was allocated high-quality and permanent facilities at Hringhella 14, facilities that fulfil all modern requirements for the preservation of valuable artifacts.
On the occasion of Hafnarfjörður’s centenary, there were considerable additions to the building owned by the Heritage Museum when Beggubúð, Bookless Bungalow and Góðtemplarahúsið became part of the exhibition buildings. In addition, a permanent exhibition venue was set up along the coast path where photographs are shown every year.