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Art and clothes, letters and documents, gifts from foreign heads of state. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland, has donated all these items and more to the University of Iceland for an exhibition on her presidency to be opened in Loftskeytastöð, the old radiotelegraph building. Vigdís, her daughter Ástríður Magnúsdóttir, and Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, recently signed an agreement in Veröld on the planned exhibition.
Ástríður Magnúsdóttir, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir og Jón Atli Benediktsson undirrita samningana í Veröld.
Ástríður Magnúsdóttir, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, and Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, signed the agreement in Veröld – House of Vigdís

The agreement follows a letter of intent signed at a celebration in the University of Iceland Ceremonial Hall, held on 17 June last year to mark the University’s 110th anniversary. At the celebration, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir presented the University of Iceland with several items from her presidency. The letter of intent was also signed by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir; Bjarni Benediktsson, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs; Sigurður Ingi Jóhansson, the Minister of Transport and Local Government and also then the acting Minister of Education, Science and Culture; and Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, signalling the government’s commitment to supporting the exhibition.

In accordance with the new agreement, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir will donate several artefacts from her presidency to the University of Iceland and the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute, such as letters and documents, gifts from foreign heads of state, pieces of art, items of clothing and other objects from her private collection. The agreement also states that the University will come to a special agreement with the National Museum and the National Archives of Iceland regarding advice on the cataloguing of donated artefacts and documents and their potential short and long-term storage.

Shedding light on Vigdís’ contribution and impact

The exhibition will focus on Vigdís’ work as President of Iceland, her impact on Icelandic society, and her significance in an international context. For example, the exhibition will cover Vigdís’ influence on the progress of equality, environmental conservation and, in particular, her campaigning for the protection of the languages and cultures of small nations in an international context. The location of the exhibition at the University of Iceland also provides opportunities for engagement with academics from various fields and emphasis will be placed on creating a vibrant atmosphere through various events and public outreach initiatives. The exhibition will be run by the Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding, which operates under the auspices of UNESCO.

Significant renovations are currently taking place in the Loftskeytastöð building, which will house the exhibition as well as facilities for research into Vigdís’ work and the causes to which she devoted her life. The University of Iceland will fund the renovations and running costs for the building, while the government will fund the exhibition itself.

Preparations for the exhibition are already underway and the cultural scholar Sigrún Alba Sigurðardóttir has been hired as curator. Sigrún Alba has extensive experience of exhibition management and was responsible for Lífsblómið, an exhibition on 100 years of Icelandic sovereignty created as a collaboration between the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, the National Archives of Iceland and the National Gallery of Iceland. Sigrún says that a great deal of care and attention will go into the exhibition and showcasing the impact that Vigdís had on Icelandic society and the issues she pursued during her presidency and as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Languages. The exhibition will be designed to appeal to a broad audience of different ages and backgrounds, including the Icelandic public, tourists, conference guests and the diverse community of the University of Iceland. The exhibition is scheduled to open on 15 April 2023.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir og dóttir hennar, Ástríður Magnúsdóttir, við undirritun samninganna í Veröld á dögunum.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir with her daugther Ástríður Magnúsdóttir in Veröld – House of Vigdís

From the website of The University of Iceland. PHOTOS/Kristinn Ingvarsson

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