The Grána fish meal and oil factory is a unique exhibit about an important chapter in the economic and social history of Siglufjordur and Iceland. As you walk through this 1930’s – 1950’s era factory you will learn about how men and machines transformed herring into meal and oil and about the surprising ways in which these valuable products were used.
Fish meal and oil production in Iceland
The factory production of fish meal and oil began in Iceland at the turn of the last century and was the nation’s first heavy industry. So successful was the industry that it was often said that the factories were grinding up gold rather than herring! In many cases, factories were built at great expense, but paid for in meal and oil after just two or three seasons. Huge factories were built near abundant herring fishing grounds, sometimes in isolated locations and more often settled areas. For the more remote factories such as at Djupavik and Ingolfsfjordur, the disappearance of the herring from Iceland’s waters in the mid-to-late 1960’s reduced them to silent, empty ghosts. In towns such as Siglufjordur, many factories were simply torn down to make way for new industry. While the reduction of herring is an industry of the past, the processing of fish such as capelin into meal and oil continues to this day and remains one of Siglufjordur’s primary industries.
A museum about herring reduction
Our work has been to breathe life back into these ghost factories. Siglufjordur was Iceland’s principal herring processing town and yet very little of the machinery from the town’s nine factories survived beyond the 1970’s. Our goal is to introduce the public to the heyday of Iceland’s herring reduction industry, the 1930’s – 1950’s. This is why we built Grána, a large factory building modelled on the original Grána herring reduction factory which operated in Siglufjordur between 1919 and 1950. After spending years dismantling piece by piece two of Iceland’s most remote ghost factories (those at Ingolfsfjordur and Hjalteyri) and transporting everything back to Siglufjordur, the conservation, reassembly, construction and installation of the factory was completed in 2003.