Harpa Þórsdóttir Appointed Curator of National Museum Amidst Some Critique Skip to content
national museum of iceland þjóðminjasafn

Harpa Þórsdóttir Appointed Curator of National Museum Amidst Some Critique

In a recent press release from the Ministry of Culture and Trade, Harpa Þórsdóttir was appointed the head curator of Þjóðminjasafn, the National Museum of Iceland.

Harpa will be taking over the position from Margrét Hallgrímsdóttir, who has held the position since 2000.

However, Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Culture and Trade, has come under some criticism for the appointment. As the position was not advertised publicly, some say that the appointment is a return to corruption and nepotism.

In an editorial for Vísir, administrative specialist Haukur Arnþórsson criticized the lack of transparency, and called for public positions to be advertised in such a way that ensure a fair hiring process:

“The main ideas behind the obligation to advertise vacancies are, on the one hand, that public funds are managed well […] and on the other hand, that everyone is equal in relation to the public sector and that their merits are assessed professionally and honestly. These points of view are not met when an employee is recruited by transferring between jobs. It is not clear what criteria are at play, which is, however, the case when a job is advertised – and the minister cannot give the public proper explanations of the hiring criteria in this respect.”

Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Culture and Trade, has pushed back against the criticism, stating that Harpa is both highly qualified, and that legal precedent exists for such hiring practices. Many other ministries, for example, hire through internal selection instead of placing open applications for every vacant position. Regarding the hiring, Lilja stated: “We have a very capable individual coming from one museum and moving on to the next.”

Harpa completed her Maîtrise in Art History at the Sorbonne in 1998, and has had a 20 year long career in museums and museum management. Prior to her appointment to the National Museum, Harpa directed the National Gallery Iceland, another of Iceland’s three major public museum collections.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has since stated that she intends to investigate such “manual hiring” practices, and wants to begin an initiative to collect data on such practices.

“I think it is important to compile these numbers over a period of time so that we can assess whether this is a trend, and to make decisions on that basis,” she stated to Vísir.

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