When Sigurður Hjartarson, now in his early 80s, started working as a history and Spanish teacher in a port town near Reykjavík in the 1970s, he had no idea that his career was soon set to take a drastic turn. More specifically, that in 20 years, he’d be the proud owner of the world’s largest collection of penises, and the founder of the first ever penis museum.
Although a unique career change, it was hardly arbitrary. Hjartarson had, in fact, collected his first penis as a kid, when he was given a dried bull’s penis to use on the farm he grew up on (it was a cattle whip to herd the animals). When his colleagues heard this story, they began gifting him penises whenever they happened upon them (as you do), and so, Hjartarson’s collection was born.
By 1997, as he recently told The Guardian, Hjartarson had acquired 63 different specimens of penis, and was invited to display his collection in what would soon become The Icelandic Phallological Museum — the world’s first, and only, museum devoted to dicks. “There are a lot of ways to preserve a penis, and I have tried all of them,” Hjartarson wrote for The Guardian. “So the collection varies between dried, stuffed and mounted penises, and also those floating in alcohol or formaldehyde.” As of today, the museum’s collection includes everything from whale to walrus dongs, with a few mouse and human penises thrown into the mix.
In 2011, Hjartarson — satisfied with his exhaustive collection — retired, passing the responsibility of dick collecting to his son, Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson. Then, in 2016, Thordur O. Thordarson scored one of the world’s greatest job titles ever: assistant curator and head phallologist at the museum. To get the lowdown on what exactly goes on inside the walls of a penis museum, I asked Thordarson to enlighten us to the most famous and arresting penises in the collection, reflect on Hjartarson’s weird and wonderful achievement and share what might happen to the dicks in the future.
How did Sigurður Hjartarson get into collecting penises, and later, the Iceland Phallological Museum?
Sigurður often spoke of how, back in the day, every part of a slaughtered animal was utilized, and how, as a young boy [growing up] on a farm, he had a bull penis pizzle, which he used to direct and collect sheep. His coworkers — who were also teachers in a town near Reykjavík — found this amusing and decided to give him such a pizzle. But this became an ongoing joke — giving him penises, that is — and as many of them had summer jobs at a whaling station and the local slaughterhouse, they got him some impressive penises.
How did you come to take over from Sigurður?
Sigurður developed a passion for collecting penises and set a goal: to acquire a penis from every mammal of the Icelandic mammal faun. In 2011, the goal was achieved when he got a penis from a [human]: a 95-year-old Icelandic bachelor. He then announced his retirement and his son Hjörtur, took over. I then came aboard full-time in 2016, but had been involved since Hjörtur — who’s also my father-in-law — took over.
What do your friends and wider family think of this? What did Sigurður’s family think of it when he started the collection?
Sigurður always reveled in being known as an eccentric, so his family took it pretty well as I understand it. My family were pretty open to it; they might have had some reservations — which they never voiced — but after seeing the museum and how we strive for a tasteful approach to the subject, they are happy for us and the museum’s success.
What penises are you currently hunting down? Why do you want them?
We aren’t “hunting” for a particular penis or species at the moment. We are generally just happy to get any donation. But we don’t want any animals killed for their penises.
That said, one time we were expecting a hippo penis. The would-be donator had all of the right papers and everything, but it was mistaken as a fillet by the customs in Brussels and taken away and not returned. Let’s just hope that someone didn’t try to eat it.
Which is the most famous penis in the museum’s collection?
The most famous one is probably our newly acquired Jimi Hendrix plaster cast, made by the late Cynthia Albritton (aka Cynthia Plaster Caster). We acquired it by chance, actually. Her friends visited the museum, and we began talking; after about an hour or so, the conversation turned to Cynthia. After they got home, they told her about us, and she decided to donate the piece. We got the Jimi cast earlier this month, and it’s currently on display in our human section. The donation is invaluable, and the piece is a pop-culture connection we’ve never had before — the attention we’ve gotten has been incredible. We don’t expect to get any more of Cynthia’s casts, but we would, of course, be thrilled to get more of her work. She was a real rebel, and her contribution to phallology cannot be measured.
Which penis in the collection do you/Sigurður find most physically arresting?
The most physically arresting penis is probably our 170-centimeter sperm whale penis. It’s the largest in our collection.
What will happen to all of the penises when Sigurður passes away?
We are hoping that the museum will live on in the family for generations. It’s a great place to work, our exhibits are in constant development and we’re always looking to add more to our collection.