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  • Harbor House Museum (Reykjavik; tel. 590-1200; www.artmuseum.is): Born Gu?mundur Gu?mundsson in 1932, Erro -- the most prominent Icelandic artist of the late 20th century -- has donated most of his life's work to this contemporary art branch of the Reykjavik Art Museum. The exhibit spaces are inside a 1930s-era warehouse perfectly suited to the vast, cartoon-styled montages for which he is best known.

  • National Museum of Iceland (Reykjavik; tel. 530-2200; www.natmus.is): This museum's permanent but ever-evolving exhibit, "The Making of a Nation," covers the entire span of Icelandic history and culture. You might anticipate a numbing encyclopedic survey, but the curators' selective restraint manages to say more with less. Look out for impromptu appearances by a youth choir singing haunting scores from the past.

  • Einar Jonsson Museum (Reykjavik; tel. 551-3797; www.skulptur.is): The work of Iceland's most revered sculptor draws heavily on classical mythology and traditional folklore, with a virtuosic command of gesture and ingenious meshings of human and beastly forms. His romantic symbolism is sometimes difficult to interpret, but never fails to carry deep emotional and spiritual resonance. Einar spent as long as 10 years perfecting his works, many of which are displayed exclusively here.

  • Settlement Center (Borgarnes; tel. 437-1600; www.landnam.is): With state-of-the-art multimedia exhibits dedicated to Egils Saga and the first 60 years of Icelandic settlement, this engaging new museum tries almost too hard to turn learning into a kind of amusement park fun house -- but we're not complaining.

  • Glaumb?r (Skagafjor?ur; tel. 453-6173; www.glaumbaer.is): Iceland has several museums inside preserved 19th- and early-20th-century turf-roofed farm buildings; but, if you see just one, make it Glaumb?r in the northwest. Fish-skin shoes and other fascinating artifacts are on view, but the most affecting moments are when you imagine the smell of burning peat and the sounds of the family clan puttering about these dark, damp, and snug rooms through the long winters.

  • Museum of Small Exhibits (Near Akureyri; tel. 463-1261; www.smamunasafnid.is): "I collect old things," explains Sverrir Hermannsson, the eccentric carpenter behind this strange and unique museum. Sverrir has meticulously culled, categorized, arranged, and mounted all sorts of things -- hammers, kettles, record-player needles, belt buckles -- in an art of pattern, repetition, and variation. The objects themselves may be ordinary and worthless, but as he cryptically notes, "The thought alone can be of aesthetic value."

  • Safnasafni? (Near Akureyri; tel. 461-4066; www.safnasafnid.is): The curators of this inspiring art museum comb the country for what they call "honesty," ignoring conventional distinctions between contemporary art, folk art, and "naive" art. The museum is not anti-elitist so much as immune to all aesthetic dogma. Whatever the grounding principles, the results are compelling: Exhibits could spotlight anything from women's needleworking tools and wooden figurines whittled by a farmer to fine photography and sculpture.

  • Husavik Museum (Husavik; tel. 464-1860; www.husmus.is): Gu?ni Halldorsson, the intense and tireless curator of this prolific folk museum in northeast Iceland, is used to seeing most visitors to Husavik take a whale-watching tour, giggle at the jarred penises in the Phallological Museum, and depart. Nothing wrong with that, but they might take some time to enjoy the fascinating range of regional artifacts on display here, from a stuffed polar bear to necklaces made from human hair.

  • Skogar Folk Museum (Skogar; tel. 487-8845; www.skogasafn.is): This is without a doubt the greatest of Iceland's many folk museums, with an enormous artifact collection ranging from fishing boats to carved headboards and makeshift mousetraps. Let the staff lead you around; otherwise, you won't know what the hollow fishbone was used for.

  • Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.