Julianna (Gudbjartson) Roberts is the seventh child of Hörður Sigurvín Gudbjartson and Emília Juliana Thorkelson of Riverton, Manitoba. She is second-generation Icelandic, as both sets of grandparents immigrated from Iceland. She was fortunate to be raised in a strong family where Icelandic heritage was very important and cultural traditions were upheld. Riverton is where many Icelanders first settled upon arrival in Manitoba. Julianna took Icelandic in school and heard it spoken in the home. Icelandic was the first language of both her parents and elder siblings. Her mother was a strong Icelandic woman who instilled into all of her children that knowing where you came from was important and encouraged them to be proud of their Icelandic heritage.
Julianna attended the University of Manitoba and obtained a bachelor’s in Recreation Studies with a minor in Icelandic Studies (B.R.S.). Career and family inspired her to live in Calgary, Vancouver, and throughout northern Manitoba, until her roots drew her home in 2007 to live on an acreage across the road from where her mom grew up.
Throughout her whole life, Icelandic heritage and culture remained important to her, and she has passed this passion on to her children. Her eldest son will travel to Iceland this summer on the Snorri Program. Julianna has become known for her pönnukökur. Now that her parents have passed on, she ensures that Icelandic baking remains a part of her extended family's events, making vínarterta, pönnukökur, and “hallmooners” (hálfmánar, half-moon-shaped cookies).
Julianna stepped into the role of Executive Director of the New Iceland Heritage Museum in January 2017. She loves working in the Gimli community and appreciates the opportunity to reach the wider Icelandic community in Manitoba and around the world. She says every day at the museum is different, with research requests, potential artifact donations, and the day-to-day tasks involved in managing two facilities that tell such an important part of Manitoba’s history - and our shared history as Icelanders.