Friday, April 15, 2011

Iceland’s Phallological Museum gets its man. (Not much else to do in there in the cold and dark.)

Although I don’t go there very often, one of my favorite museums is the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH). Its exhibits include the fascinating (boringly so), 4,000-strong (or fragile) collection of glass flowers. And a whole lot of stuffed animals. Not Steiff-cutesy stuffed animals. Actual animals, taxidermed. Many of which breathed their last well over a hundred years ago. So they’re a bit long in the metaphorical tooth, showing signs of age and appearing, well, moth-eaten. That some of cases contain moth balls contributes to the moth-eaten atmosphere. Although the museum has been reno’d over the years, the last time I was there, it still had many of the its original creaking wooden floors and old display cases. An altogether wonderful little museum, with the entire experience enhanced by the occasional whiff of moth ball.

Precisely because of the moth ball smell, the HMNH is not quite as pompous, smug, and bogus-ly underplayed (nothing says Harvard quite like a good strong does of insincere self-deprecation), as so much else Harvard that we non-H locals have come to expect from the little college that could.

I mention HMNH because it is fun, entertaining, and quirky, and absolutely worth an occasional look-see, especially if you have a kid in tow.

And to position myself (without resorting to pompous, smug, self-deprecation – I am, after all, non-H) as the sort who, if not exactly jolly, does enjoy an occasional fun, entertaining, and quirky little museum.

That said, even with the newest addition to its sizable and growing collection, I can’t imagine beating a path (or anything else) to the Phallological Museum of Iceland.

First, let’s clear one of the obvious comments out of the way: this must be the first, last, and only time that the words “phallus” and “logical” are combined. Personally, something like the Phallo-non-logical Museum might be a better choice. Or is it just me?

That aside, the Museum is, I suppose, to be congratulated on its acquisition of its first human phallus.

Long promised to the Museum, its 95 year old possessor died a few months back, leaving his posthumously pickled specimen to join the bottled-in-formaldehyde (or dried and framed) ranks of walrus, whale, seal, and bear penises.

This is pretty much a members-only museum, but in also houses penis art and artifacts (lampshades, anyone?).

There was no indication of the size Pall Arason’s unit, but size assuredly does not matter, especially after death. Besides, whatever it is, Arason’s would be just a shrinking violet next to the 67 inch sperm whale penis. (No Moby Dick jokes, please.)

The Museum’s founder and curator is Sigurdur Hjartarson, a retired high school headmaster, author, and scholar who, nearly forty years ago, was given a bull’s pizzle as a joke. This aroused Hjararson’s latent interest in phallus collecting.

This begat the Museum, which:

…is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country.

I’d say that “only museum” claim is a safe bet.

Phallology is an ancient science which, until recent years, has received very little attention in Iceland, except as a borderline field of study in other academic disciplines such as history, art, psychology, literature and other artistic fields like music and ballet.

Speaking of little attention and borderline field, the Museum’s website is available in Esperanto. (Faluslogio estas antikva scienco…Hey, Esperanto looks fun and easy! Maybe I’ll take it up. Too bad so few people speak it, even though it looks like most Westerners would be able to read it.)

The Museum collection contains a couple of hundred penises and “penile parts” (quick: which has a bigger yuck factor?). Plus, it:

…has also been fortunate enough to receive  legally-certified gift tokens for four specimens belonging to Homo Sapiens.

I do believe that the web-site needs to be updated, as one of those “legally-certified gift tokens” has been turned in.

Gives new meaning to the words “organ donor,” doesn’t it?

Anyway, the Museum, which is located in Húsavík, “the whale watching capital of Europe”, draws over 10,000 visitors each summer.

Iceland is on my bucket list, and I suppose if I’m there…

Still, I’d rather go watch a full-blown whale than look at what’s left of him floating in a vat of formaldehyde. 

If I had a bull pizzle in hand, I would use it to tip my cap to my brother-in-law Rick who spotted the Phallo Museum article (from AP) and sent it my way.

1 comment:

Steve said...

If you like quirky museums, and are ever in L.A., the queen of them all can be found there.

and here: