The Library of Water – Stykkishólmur, Iceland - Atlas Obscura

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The Library of Water

Stykkishólmur, Iceland

This collection of unique liquids allows visitors to wander the waters of Iceland's glaciers. 


Known as “Vatnasafn” in the native Icelandic, the Library of Water is a long-term project that has set out to capture the spirit of Iceland through its waters, weather, and words.

Located in a former library building built on a coastal promontory, this long term installation by American artist Roni Horn, is both an art piece and natural history collection. The piece consists of three distinct parts: One area collects audio recordings (accompanied by visual displays) of Icelandic weather as reported by the local people around the town of Stykkishólmur, where the exhibition is located, creating an interactive self-portrait of the area. Accenting this display is the floor of the main room which is made of rubber etched with both English and Icelandic words pertaining to the weather. The centerpiece of the site is the titular “Library of Water” which is kept in floor-to-ceiling clear cylinders. Each pillar standing throughout the main room is filled with water that was melted from one of Iceland’s 24 glaciers. Every tube holds the liquid of a single glacier, allowing visitors to take a sort of tour all across Iceland right in one room.

Given that the mineral and chemical content of each glacier’s melt is different, each of the over-sized vials has essentially captured a very specific portion of the country for posterity and eventually, historical interest. The Library of Water has already began to serve a preservationist purpose as it contains the melt water of the Ok glacier which has since disappeared.

Know Before You Go

Tickets for The Library of Water are available at The Volcano Museum Stykkishólmur, which is currently closed due to COVID.

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March 18, 2013

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