Danish Professor Reluctant to Repatriate Icelandic Manuscripts Skip to content
Arnamagnaean Institute

Danish Professor Reluctant to Repatriate Icelandic Manuscripts

Around 700 Icelandic manuscripts are kept at the University of Copenhagen. Anne Mette Hansen, assistant professor in Nordic Studies, believes that’s where they should stay. Iceland’s Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, on the other hand, is hoping to repatriate some of those manuscripts, while Hansen says they are also part of Denmark’s cultural heritage. RÚV reported first.

The University of Copenhagen founded the Arnamagnaean Institute to house the collection Icelandic scholar Árni Magnússon bequeathed the university at his death in 1730. While a 1965 parliamentary ruling divided the important collection between Iceland and Denmark, the Danish Institute still houses many important original manuscripts from Iceland.

“I have been very clear about the fact that we want to repatriate more manuscripts,” Lilja stated recently in an interview for RÚV. The University of Iceland is currently building a new, state-of-the-art facility that will house its existing manuscript collection as well as any manuscripts that may be repatriated.

Hansen says Icelandic manuscripts in the Danish collection are also part of Danish cultural heritage. “They are part of our history,” she told Danish paper BT. “They deal with sagas about Danish kings, from Harald Bluetooth to Canute VI.” She says, however, that it is possible that Iceland could receive the manuscripts on loan once the Icelandic House is completed. “But not all of them.”

While Iceland’s Minister of Education and Culture believes Danish interest in these artefacts of cultural heritage is dwindling and the time has come to bring them back to Iceland, the idea has been controversial among scholars. “From a purely academic point of view, if the manuscripts go home to Iceland, I do not know in what way, if any, it would strengthen scholarship there,” stated Viðar Pálsson, Associate Professor of History at the University of Iceland.

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