The Danish government has agreed to the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies’ request to loan Icelandic manuscripts on a long-term basis. RÚV reports.
The manuscripts in question would be displayed at the new centre for Icelandic manuscript studies, which has yet to be named. Originally financed in 2005, the new centre recently ended its open call for naming suggestions and is expected to open this April.
A committee will review the suggested name and select the best, to be revealed at the building’s upcoming opening.
However, not all are in support of relocating the manuscripts. Danish academics have resisted possible repatriation, stating the manuscripts are a part of Danish cultural heritage as well.
Some Icelandic academics have likewise cast doubt on the utility of bringing certain manuscripts back to Iceland. In 2019, professor Viðar Pálsson at the University of Iceland stated: “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.”
Highlighting the potential dangers of transporting historical manuscripts, he further stated: “In the past centuries, people defined what manuscripts were considered Icelandic. Many of the manuscripts would fall into a grey area, but virtually all manuscripts that we can say are mainly Icelandic have been brought back. But there are also some manuscripts that we could describe as rather Icelandic than anything else that we may nevertheless want to recover at some point. Of course, there are manuscripts in the Danish archives containing prized Icelandic sagas, but then there were manuscripts containing more prosaic legal material, royal narrative material and so on that originate in Iceland but are not necessarily Icelandic in content.”
Despite such objections, Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Alfreðsdóttir has been eager to acquire the manuscripts on behalf of the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies.
The manuscripts in question would be displayed with the latest technologies at the new centre. Estimates state that the long-term loan will cost some 250 million ISK [$1.8 million; €1.7 million].
According to RÚV, the loan request is currently being processed by the Arnamagnæan Institute in Copenhagen. A response is expected promptly.