April 17, 2000 The Library of Congress to Hold Exhibition and Symposium on Icelandic Sagas

Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-9191

The traveling exhibition "Living and Reliving the Icelandic Sagas," an unprecedented gathering of historic Icelandic manuscripts and books, opens on Wednesday, May 24, in the Thomas Jefferson Building, at the Library of Congress. A corresponding symposium, "Saga Literature and the Shaping of Icelandic Culture," will be held May 24, from 1:20 p.m. to 5 p.m., and May 25, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in the Mumford Room, sixth floor, James Madison Building.

The exhibition, which is open Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and runs through July 15, is a collaboration of the National and University Library of Iceland, the Library of Congress, the Fiske Icelandic Collection of the Cornell University Library, and the Icelandic Collection of the University of Manitoba Library.

From these institutions and the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland, the exhibition consists of approximately 75 items, including Icelandic paper manuscripts never seen before in North America. "Living and Reliving the Icelandic Saga," which narrates the history of Icelandic saga literature, also features a selection of rare printed books from the Library and from Cornell University Library.

The symposium is organized by the Library and Cornell University Library. Fifteen scholars from North America, Europe and Australia will speak on the influence of sagas on Western civilization during the last millennium.

More than a thousand years ago, Northmen and Celts sailed across the North Atlantic and settled a volcanic island they called Iceland. During the Middle Ages, their descendants established colonies in Greenland and explored the North American seaboard.

Icelanders lived in a world of feuding and vengeance, yet developed a unique form of democratic government under the rule of law. They lived in a world in which valiant men and women became heroes and heroines in oral tradition and literature. The account of their lives and legends is embodied in the Icelandic sagas, recorded and handed down through the centuries.

The 10 major sections of the exhibition present the sagas themselves, feature the various periods of their development, and examine their influence on Western culture in the past and present.


PR 00-058
ISSN 0731-3527