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Iceland's museums are all manageably sized; even this relatively large exhibition condensing Iceland's entire history and culture won't wear out your legs or attention. "The Making of a Nation" selects specific figures, objects, and vignettes to represent stages and themes of Icelandic history: A charming, old instant-photo booth, for example, signals the onset of modernity. Interactive elements are cutesy but effective: You can pick up a phone and have a one-way conversation with a medieval chieftain from 1117, or Guðriður the nun in her convent in 1323. The exhibit begins with a pagan burial site and ends with a traditional Icelandic dress refashioned by contemporary artist Ásdís Elva Pétursdóttir in transparent plastic. Everything in between is worth seeing for yourself.

The ground floor houses the free National Gallery of Photography, which, in keeping with the exhibit upstairs, emphasizes the Iceland of yore.