Museum notes

The world of museums is full of marvelous oddities: in particular, remarkably specialized museums, of all sizes (there are also grab-bag museums: local museums, exhibiting anything having some connection, however remote, to the locality, and eccentric museums, gathering together all sorts of things that have caught the collector’s eye).

Two specialized museums that have come by me recently: one that’s a fresh mention of an old friend, the Frog Museum in Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland; and a new acquaintance, the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik.

The Frog Museum. Some years back, when my daughter Elizabeth was living and working in francophone Switzerland (near and in Neuchatel), she wrote about this museum, across the lake ( “A nice boat ride from where I used to live”, she wrote recently, when Ann Burlingham came across the place).

From their web site:

In the Frog Museum, you will find something that is truly one of a kind: a collection of 108 stuffed frogs arranged in scenes portraying everyday life in the 19th-century.

Stuffed frogs are discovered at the school, at the barbers, as soldiers in the army, as well as by a game of cards at your favourite table. François Perrier created the extraordinary frogs between the years 1848 and 1860, depicting satirical scenes of this very particular era.

An example:


Despite being amphibians (cold-blooded and often perceived as “slimy”), frogs have in general a reputation as being “cute” creatures, with various pieces of mostly delightful folklore and stories about them — a notable exception being the hated (poisonous) pestiferous cane toads of Australia. (Ann Burlinghame was hoping that cane toads could be converted into change purses and the like.)

Meanwhile we have frog as as a slur. From NOAD2:

informal, offensive   a French person.

Used as a general term of abuse in Middle English, the term was applied specifically to the Dutch in the 17th cent.; its application to the French (late 18th cent.) is partly alliterative, partly from the reputation of the French for eating frogs’ legs.

The Phallological Museum. From Wikipedia:

The Icelandic Phallological Museum …, located in Reykjavík, Iceland, houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts. The collection of 280 specimens from 93 species of animals includes 55 penises taken from whales, 36 from seals and 118 from land mammals, allegedly including Huldufólk (Icelandic elves) and trolls. In July 2011, the museum obtained its first human penis, one of four promised by would-be donors. Its detachment from the donor’s body did not go according to plan and it was reduced to a greyish-brown shrivelled mass pickled in a jar of formalin. The museum continues to search for “a younger and a bigger and better one.”

Founded in 1997 by retired teacher Sigurður Hjartarson and now run by his son Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson, the museum grew out of an interest in penises that began during Sigurður’s childhood when he was given a cattle whip made from a bull’s penis. He obtained the organs of Icelandic animals from sources around the country, with acquisitions ranging from the 170 cm (67 in) front tip of a blue whale’s penis to the 2 mm (0.08 in) penis bone of a hamster, which can only be seen with a magnifying glass.

3 Responses to “Museum notes”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Victor Steinbok on Google:

    A couple more unusual museums in Lithuania:

    Devil Museum (Kaunas) — an international collection of various images and incarnations of the horned one.

    Museum for the Blind (Vilnius) — a collectoon of non-visual exhibits

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Emily Rizzo on Facebook:

    Taxidermy frogs are still popular. I recently gave away one sawing wood which I had purchased it on Ebay a while back. A quick look at Ebay shows that they are still going strong, usually playing instruments or drinking beer.

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    Michael Palmer on Facebook:

    I see it’s time for the yewtoob vidyo: ‪
    SERAPHIC FIRE — “Their Land Brought Forth Frogs” from Handel’s “Israel in Egypt.”

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