At Iceland's Phallological Museum, size is everything
Saturday 23 July 2011
From gigantic whale penises to speck-sized field mouse testicles and lampshades made from bull scrotums, Iceland's small Phallological Museum has it all - and recently put its first human member on display.
"This is the biggest one," founder and curator Sigurdur Hjartarson told AFP, patting an enormous plastic canister. Inside was a liquid-immersed greyish-white mass as wide as a small tree trunk and as tall as a man.
Weighing 70 kilos (154 pounds) and measuring around 170 centimetres (5 feet 7 inches), the Sperm Whale specimen "is just the front tip," he explained.
"The full penis could in fact be five metres (yards) and weigh something like 350 to 450 kilos - but of course, the animal it came from weighed around 50 tonnes," said the 69-year-old retired headmaster, chuckling beneath his woolly, grey beard.
A total 276 specimens from all of Iceland's 46 mammals, along with a few foreign contributions, are on show at what may be the world's only penis museum.
The cramped room is filled with test tubes and glass containers in all shapes and sizes, holding formaldehyde-immersed offerings from whales, dolphins, walruses, redfish, goats, polar bears and rats, just to mention a few.
The walls are decorated with massive dried penises, while several dried bull and reindeer organs have been transformed into whips and walking sticks.
Fifteen silver-coloured casts of different-sized human penises also stand in a glass case below a picture of Iceland's 2008 silver medal-winning handball team.
"Let's just say each has its original model," Hjartarson laughed heartily.
"The only thing I can say is that the order on the picture is not the same as the casts, but I'm sure their wives would recognise them."
The Icelander's collection started with a story in 1974. He recalled to some friends how as a child he was given a whip made of a bull's penis to take the cows out to pasture. One of the friends responded by sending him a new one.
Soon acquaintances working at nearby whaling stations heard the tale and "they stated bringing me whale penises, too."
After that, the collection took on a life of its own.
- Disappointed by the homo sapiens -
The museum, which Hjartarson opened in Reykjavik in 1997 with 62 specimens, has since 2004 found an unlikely home in the small northern fishing village of Husavik, population 2,200.
Unmissable with a huge wooden phallus sculpture outside, the museum has drawn up to 11,000 visitors during its May-September season - and even more notoriety this year when the first human member joined the mix.
It was donated by 95-year-old Pall Arason, a friend Hjartarson described as a "a pioneer in Icelandic tourism and a famous womaniser" who died in January but had promised his organ to the museum in 1996.
"I'd been waiting for him for 15 years," Hjartarson joked.
Glancing down at the glass container holding a greyish-brown, shrivelled mass, he admitted that "the preservation was not successful".
"I should have stretched it and sewn it at the back to keep it in more or less a normal position" but it "went directly into the formaldehyde" instead.
Visitor Martin Thorsen, a 43-year-old Icelander, said he was astounded by the whales though "kind of disappointed by the homo sapiens". But Hjartarson shrugged off the mishap.
"It doesn't really matter. He was an old guy and I will get a younger and a bigger and better one soon," he said, pointing out that he has donation letters from a Briton, a German and an American.
Hjartarson admits that Husavik locals were at first sceptical "but when people realised there was nothing pornographic here, they came to accept it."
Karin Konradt, 65, and husband Dieter, 64, said they heard about the museum back home in Germany and made it one of their first stops on a two-week trip to Iceland.
"It sounded interesting, so here we are," Karin said, nodding towards a "quite impressive" mounted whale penis jutting out into the room.
"But I am wondering what children think about this when they come in. I hope their parents talk to them and don't leave them alone," the retired teacher said with a wrinkled brow.
Hjartarson, who carves his own wooden penises that cover the museum's phone, wall clock and chandelier, said whether he'll make a personal donation to the collection depends on his wife of 50 years.
"If she dies first, my specimen would go in here," he said. "If I die first, well I can't say. She might say no."
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