SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See: And Other Excursions to Iceland’s Most Unusual Museums

Penguin. May 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780143135463. $22. TRAV
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Not so much a guidebook as a meditation on how museums develop, this book from writer/artist Greene explores the social and cultural history of the people and country of Iceland. It is a tribute to museums of an island nation with only 333,000 people but more than 265 museums. How does a seemingly random assortment of objects map a people’s past and future? From the Icelandic Phallological Museum to the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft, most museums in Iceland were established in the past 20 years, coinciding with the increased interest in tourism. The author considers how collections by themselves are just groups of things, and how a collection becomes a museum when it is arranged into a story.
VERDICT For travelers and those interested in museums, collecting, Icelandic history and culture, and a poetic look at the country’s museums.

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