The Danish National Museum has a large collection of photographs, many of which are available online. Since Iceland was a part of the Danish Kingdom until 1944, the museum contains a fascinating collection of old photographs taken in Iceland around the turn of the century 1900. Among these collections is the Daniel Bruun collection.
Daniel Bruun was an officer in the Royal Danish Navy and a prolific archeologist and ethnographer. In the years 1881-82, 1893 and 1911 Bruun traveled widely in North Africa, excavating archeological sites in Tunisia and Algiers, as well as collecting a wealth of ethnographic materials.
He is best known for his archeological expeditions to Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, and his ethnographic studies of Iceland in the 1890s and first two decades of the 20th century. He is credited with having introduced modern scientific archeology to Iceland. He studied old Viking Age grave sites, mapping their locations and analyzing their contents. Among his achievements was finding the first boat grave in Iceland.
His study of Icelandic popular culture is also invaluable. Bruun collected hundreds of photographs of Icelanders in their daily lives, made sketches of farms and recorded working methods, customs and popular beliefs and practices which would otherwise have been lost.
These photographs are among the thousands of items from Bruun’s Iceland collection. They are taken over a long period, 1896 to 1927, and include photos of women and girls dressed up in their Sunday finest, as well as photos of farm women and girls working. We have examples of the more ancient Faldabúningur (easily identifiable by the elaborate hats), Peysuföt (more modest, traditional clothing, worn with Skotthúfa, caps with a tail) and Skrautbúningur, which was a 19th century version of the Faldbúningur.”
Bashford Dean in 1900 wearing Japanese armor; the Japanese Edo period armor now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)
“The museums of New York City sprung out of wealth and curiosity, but few of their turn-of-the-century boosters were quite so eccentric or prolific as Bashford Dean. The expert in both fish and armor — and armored fish — was the major proponent and collector behind the Arms and Armor Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
To celebrate both the centennial of the department and its adventurous founder, the museum opened Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department in 2012. It was originally only planned to go until last fall but has been extended through this year, and it’s worth stopping by the small show tucked in a gallery just outside the main armament displays. Not that any one artifact is going to compete with any on permanent display, except the character that was Bashford Dean.
Dean started collecting armor as a child, but his first academic love was fishes. At Columbia University he studied both paleontology and zoology, especially intrigued by those ancient fishes with flesh that seemed born for battle. He soon became a professor at the university and started to travel, and while that would be achievement enough he branched out into a full obsession with Japan, especially its military history. Soon he had the most impressive Japanese armor collection outside of Asia, and this transitioned into an extensive delve into the whole history of military protection that entailed the building of a whole display hall at his home of Wave Hill. Eventually in 1912 he became the first curator of arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum, in addition to already being a curator of fishes at the American Museum of Natural History. He’s still the only person to have held curatorial positions at both places simultaneously.”