It Started Small – The Icelandic Phallological Museum
(Note: This article discusses an Icelandic museum devoted to a certain, uhumm, specific part of the male anatomy. So there’s your notice.)
It starts small and grows big. Isn’t that how it always works?
I’m talking about collections. What did you think I was referring to?
I know I’m not alone. A lot of people have large collections amassed devoted to one thing or another.
For me it was polar bears. It started innocently enough and grew to a collection of more than 200 stuffed animals, tree ornaments and collectables.
It began with a single bear when I was director of the B-rrry Scurry race in Clinton, Iowa. The race is held the first Saturday in February when temperatures are known to be at or well below the freezing mark.
The race’s mascot is a polar bear, B-rrry Bear. Along the way we purchased a polar bear costume to promote the race and I was the first one to wear it in parades, holiday festivals, even a grade school appearance.
In later years, before online dating, we went in search of a girlfriend for him and found B-rrronda Bear, but I digress.
My collection began when a woman I worked with gave me a large stuffed polar bear she had hand made as a gift. I still have it today.
That set it all in motion and for years I acquired more and more polar bears. Some I purchased and others given to me as gifts.
Sadly, when I moved to my current home I no longer had the space to store them, donating most of the stuffed ones to the local Goodwill and sending more valuable ones to the auction house.
I did keep a few. There’s probably two dozen scattered around my bookshelves and the three largest ones are keeping eye right behind me as I write this. The largest of which is close to four feet long.
It Begins With a Bull’s Pizzle
Which, in a roundabout fashion, gets me to Sigurður Hjartarson and the Icelandic Phallogical Museum, the world’s only penis museum.
As with my polar bear collection, it all began with a single gift.
Hjartarson was a teacher and principal, teaching history and Spanish including 26 years at Reykjavik’s Hamrahild College.
It all began in the early 1970s while Hjartarson was serving as school headmaster in the small town of Akranes and was presented with a bull’s pizzle as a joke by his teaching staff.
Now, if you have no clue what a bull’s pizzle is, don’t feel bad, neither did I.
At the risk of being rather blunt about it, the pizzle is a whip made from a bull’s penis.
It soon became on ongoing joke with teachers, who sometimes worked summer jobs in the whaling industry, gifting him penises of all sorts and sizes.
Somewhere along the line the joke became, well, an obsession and Hjartarson began to set his sights on collecting the penises of all the land and see creatures in and around Iceland. By the late 1980s he had acquired the penises of half of the country’s land mammals.
An important note, Hjartarson did not kill the animals to acquire their appendage. They all came from animals who were already dead of a natural cause or some accident, were part of a commercial endeavor, or just generally hunted by hunters.
The Museum Opens
The museum opened in 1997. As the story goes Hjartarson begins renting a small space beside another, entirely unrelated business, that was having difficulty paying its rent.
Iceland is well known for having a large number of small, quirky, museums. Most are staffed almost solely by the proprietor. (My previous post about the Icelandic Punk Museum tells a bit about it.)
By this time, Hjartarson had acquired 62 penises along with other pieces of art and novelties. Business wasn’t exactly booming in those days but from the stories I read, that didn’t seem to bother him all that much. As long as he was paying the bills he didn’t care about having a lot of people coming through anyway.
The Move to Husavik
By 2004, Hjartarson is tired of the big city and relocates the museum to Husavik, a whaling town along Iceland’s northern coast nearly 300 miles away from Reykjavik.
Curiously enough, this is when the museum begins to grow in popularity. Tour operators, bringing visitors to the area for whale watching, discover the museum and it becomes a regular stop on their tours.
Those visitors told stories of this unusual museum to friends and family when returning home. Foreign media pick up on the story, further spreading the word.
Triumphant Return to Reykjavik
By 2010, Hjartarson has completed his collection which, by now, also includes a human penis. That artifact comes from a man who agrees to donate his appendage upon his death. I suppose that’s one way to obtain immortality.
Ready to retire, Hjartarson turned over the reins of the business to his son, Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson, who has plans for modernizing the museum, moving it back to Reykjavik in 2011, doubling its size.
Side note time, if you’re wondering why the son’s last name differs from the father’s, it has to do with Icelandic tradition. Rather than carrying on the father’s last name, as we do in the United States, children carry the father’s first name.
Hjartarson’s first name was Sigurður so his son’s last name is Sigurðsson, or son of Sigurður. If Hjartarson had a daughter, her last name would be Sigurðurdóttir, daughter of Sigurður.
Iceland is such a small country they have documents detailing pretty much everyone’s genealogy. It’s common for single people, when meeting someone, to look up the other person’s ancestry before dating to make sure they aren’t too closely related.
Back to our story.
With the return to Reykjavik, the museum continues to grow in popularity. So much so that Sigurðsson relocates once again, to its current location, tripling in size.
Visitors today enter a very professional and attractive space. Yes, there is a bit of humor, giggling and maybe a side joke or two when first entering but after a short time of being inside it becomes almost clinical, like examining specimens in a biology class.
The collection currently includes 280 specimens from 93 species, and continues to grow as it acquires new specimens. It also includes a folklore section with penises from elves, trolls, a merman and more.
Not to mention, though I guess I am, a plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix’s penis, donated by Chicago artist, Cynthia Plaster Caster. Ok, maybe that’s not her real name, Cynthia Albritton, but that was what she went by.
The museum has also added a phallic-themed bistro serving food and beers with such titles as Moby Dick Pale Whale and Phallic Lager. It’s food offerings include, yes, penis-shaped waffles such as Duck Confit, Pulled Pork and Wild Reindeer, and traditional offerings with strawberries, bananas and caramelized apples.
Having a space serving food is a common feature at many of Iceland’s small museums, providing them with an additional revenue stream. Even if you do not enter the museum’s exhibits, you can still stop in for a beer and to grab a bite.
Final note, if you search the word “phallological” you’ll find a number of definitions from online sources but, you will not find it in Merriam-Webster, Encyclopedia Britannica or even Funk & Wagnalls.
That’s because it was coined by Hjartarson to name his museum.
Admission is 2,750 Icelandic Krona, roughly $19.50 US.
**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.