Árni Magnússon Institute Receives ISK 200 Million Grant Skip to content
Árni Magnússon
Photo: Golli.

Árni Magnússon Institute Receives ISK 200 Million Grant

The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies has received a grant of ISK 200 million [$1.5 million / €1.3 million] from the Danish A.P. Møller Fund. The grant was awarded in support of the Archive Arnamagnæana project, which aims to create a digital database of ancient letters and documents.

The Árni Magnússon collection

As noted in an article by IR staff writer Jelena Ćirić, the Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection, located at two institutions in Iceland and Denmark, is on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.

It was established by Árni Magnússon (1663-1730), who travelled widely across Iceland collecting vellum manuscripts and books stretching back to the 12th century. “On his deathbed, he bequeathed his collection to the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Iceland was a Danish colony at the time, and it was the only university in all the territories of the Danish kingdom.”

Between 1971 and 1997, about half of the collection was returned to Iceland, where it has been kept at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies. The 3,000 items in the collection are considered invaluable sources on the history and culture of mediaeval, renaissance, and early modern Scandinavia and Europe as a whole. The sagas they contain, a uniquely Icelandic narrative genre, are still translated and read around the world today.

Read More: Open Books, Iceland’s Priceless Manuscript Collection Has a New Home

Digitising the collection

In a press release yesterday, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies announced that it had received a grant of ISK 200 million [$1.5 million / €1.3 million] from the Danish A.P. Møller Fund (full name: the A.P. Møller and Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal).

The A.P. Moller Foundation is a Danish philanthropic commercial foundation established in 1953 by the Danish shipping magnate, and founder of the A.P. Møller-Maersk Group, A.P. Møller. The A.P. Moller Foundation receives 1,600 applications annually and supports approximately 500 projects every year.

The grant was awarded in support of the Archive Arnamagnæana project, which aims to create a digital database of ancient letters and documents, copies of ancient letters, and letter collections from the Árni Magnússon collection. The project will be a collaboration between scholars at Den Arnamagnænske Samling in Copenhagen, the National Archives in Oslo, and the National Archives of Iceland, all of which preserve parts of the Árni Magnússon’s collection.

Digital photographs of all documents will accompany their listing and references to printed versions where applicable. Þórunn Sigurðardóttir, a research professor at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, will lead the project.

As noted in the press release: “These ancient letters are among the most important sources that can be found on the history of Iceland, Denmark, and Norway from the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century; in most cases, the letters contain information relating to where and when they were written. The collection as a whole is about 6,000 original letters, over 10,000 transcriptions of original letters (some of which have not been preserved), as well as a number of document and letter collections.”

“Although the ancient documents usually come from the official administration of the Danish-Norwegian Kingdom,” the press release continues, “they also contain information about the lives and circumstances of ordinary people. They, therefore, give us an insight into a long-gone world.”

The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies is an independently funded academic research institute at the University of Iceland, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Business Affairs. Its role is to conduct research in the field of Icelandic studies and related scholarly disciplines, in particular, Icelandic language and literature; to disseminate knowledge in these fields, and to preserve and augment the collections entrusted to its care.

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