|Icelandic Phallological Museum (Reykjavik, Iceland)|
On our second day in Reykjavik, we headed off to see the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which houses preserved penises from a wide variety of animal species. The exhibit also included some phallic art and folklore.
Sigurður Hjartarson, a history teacher and principal, gradually amassed an extensive personal collection of animal phalluses, which he then turned into the world's only phallological museum. But, although he had phalluses from many different species, he lacked a "proper human" specimen. He felt that the museum would not be complete until he had a human phallus, and his quest for this specimen was the topic of the documentary film, The Final Member (which is currently available streaming through Netflix, if you wish to watch it in its entirety).
The documentary not only tells the tale of the dedicated and passionate collector of phalluses, but also explores the relationships men have with their genitalia. The public display of one's dismembered penis -- is it a moment of national pride, of sexual prowess, of fame and glory, or masculinity made visible? The museum currently has several letters from men promising to donate their genitals (post-mortem) . . . and one "proper human" specimen, as well.
|Killer whale penis|
Icelandic Phallological Museum
There were quite a few sea mammal penises in the museum, including this one from a killer whale. Cetaceans have a fibroelastic penis (as do deer, bulls, etc.), rather than the musculovascular type found in humans (and dogs, horses, etc.). The fibroelastic penis contains a lot of connective tissue and elastic fibers, but not much erectile tissue. Erection results from straightening the sigmoid flexure, which increases the length (but not the diameter) of the penis. Erection of the fibroelastic penis only requires a small increase in blood flow, while the musculoskeletal penis requires a much larger increase in blood flow to achieve erection. The conical tip of the cetacean penis is called the terminal cone.
|Sperm whale penis in cross-section (Icelandic Phallological Museum)|
Apparently, the blue whale has the largest penis of any species, measuring 8-10 feet. (Not that size matters, of course, but it does give a sense of scale to see the tiny penis of a shrew in the same room as an enormous cetacean penis.) If you are interested in this topic, biologists recently got all a-Twitter and started posting photos of animal penises (#junkoff). Did you know that ducks have a corkscrew penis? (You can watch it everting here.) And snakes have a forked hemipenis? The animal world is full of interesting genitalia.
A second exhibit featured early Icelandic books. This is a photo of Íslendingabók, the Book of Icelanders, written 1122-1132 by Ari Þorgilsson, an Icelandic priest. The book describes the history of Iceland up to the year 1120, and it is considered a fairly accurate account by historians. This is one of two paper manuscript copies made in the 17th century, which are the only remaining copies of the vellum text from ca.1200.
Icelandic history and culture seems strongly grounded in books. Not only are these early historical texts still referenced, but Iceland tops the world in the number of writers, books published, and books read per capita. Icelandic tradition involves giving books as gifts on Christmas eve and staying up reading that night. The sagas surround and infuse the culture with the art and joy of storytelling, and I'm sure that helps while away the long, dark winter nights.
Apparently, the artist donated this work to the city, provided it would be permanently installed at Austurvöllur. The piece is meant to commemorate the 2008-9 financial crisis protests in Iceland (along with other protests, such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street). The work has evoked mixed response among Icelanders, apparently.
(I didn't take pictures in the Blue Lagoon itself, for fear of damaging the camera in the water, but this is a shot from the parking lot as we were leaving.)
Next up: The Golden Circle