Q: Just when I thought I had seen everything, the Icelandic Phallological Museum was brought to my attention. I really thought it was a BAD joke.
As a psychologist, my curiosity just doesn't stop there. This seems to me to be very incongruous to Iceland's Viking roots.
Who and why was responsible for what appears to be a very WEIRD subject?
Ken Freeman, Florida, USA
A: Sigurdur Hjartarson, the curator of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, said you would find answers to all the questions you might have about the museum on its website.
There, he writes:
“The foundation was laid in 1974 when I got a pizzle or a bull’s penis. […] In 1974 I was living in the town of Akranes on the south-west coast, working as a headmaster in a secondary school. Some of my teachers used to work in summer in a nearby whaling station and […] they started bringing me whale penises, supposedly to tease me. Then the idea came up gradually that it might be interesting collecting specimens from more mammalian species.”
He also explains:
“Phallology is an ancient science which, until recent years, has received very little attention in Iceland, except as a borderline field of study in other academic disciplines such as history, art, psychology, literature and other artistic fields like music and ballet.”
Located in Húsavík, northeast Iceland, the museum boasts a collection of 209 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all land and sea mammals in Iceland. The museum has also been promised a human specimen.
It is probably the only museum of its kind in the world and has garnered worldwide attention. It is, for example, included in the Independent Traveler’s list of the strangest museums in the world.
Hjartarson says the number of visitors has been gradually increasing since the museum’s opening in Húsavík in 2004, reaching 11,000 in the summer of 2009. It is open daily (12 noon to 6 pm) from May 20 to September 6.
Hjartarson (born 1941), is a historian with a BA degree from the University of Iceland and a M.Litt. in Latin American History from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
He worked as a principal and teacher for 37 years, the last 26 of which he taught history and Spanish at the Hamrahlíd College in Reykjavík.
He retired in 2004 and moved to Húsavík. He has written and translated some 20 books, chiefly on Latin American History, including textbooks in history and Spanish.