Sigurdur Hjartarson is missing a human penis. But he's not worried: four men have promised to donate theirs to him when they die.
Mr. Hjartarson is founder and owner of the Icelandic Phallological Museum in the quiet fishing village of Husavik on the Iceland's north coast, It offers visitors from around the world a close-up look at the long and the short of the male reproductive organ.
His collection, which began in 1974 with a bull's penis, now boasts 263 preserved members from 90 species.
The largest, from a sperm whale, is 70 kilograms and 1.7 metres long. The smallest, a hamster penis bone, is just two millimetres and must be viewed through a magnifying glass.
One species conspicuous by its absence is Homo sapiens, but that may soon be rectified since a German, an American, an Icelander and a Briton have promised to donate their organs after death, according to certificates on display.
The American, 52-year-old Stan Underwood, supplied a written description of his penis - which he purportedly nicknamed "Elmo" - for display alongside a life-size plastic mould of the member as well as his pledge to donate it.
Mr. Hjartarson said the Icelandic donor, a 93-year-old from nearby Akureyri, was a womanizer in his youth who thought having his penis in the collection might bring him eternal fame. But vanity may make him rethink the offer.
"He has mentioned lately that his penis is shrinking as he gets older and he is worried it might not make a proper exhibit," Mr. Hjartarson said.
His collection "started as a joke when I got the first specimen - a bull's penis," Mr. Hjartarson said in a telephone interview from Iceland yesterday. "We used to dry these penises and use them as whips for the cows and horses," he said.
He was headmaster at a school near Reykjavik at the time and there was a whaling station nearby where some his teachers used to work in the summer. After he got the bull's penis, the teachers started bringing him penises from the whaling station "and then the idea gradually developed that it might be interesting to continue collecting examples of this organ from other species," he said.
He opened the museum on a part-time basis in Reykjavik in 1997. After he retired from teaching in 2004, he moved to Husavik, 480 kilometres northeast of the capital, and the museum moved with him.
Open from May to September, it is housed in a plain brown building, the entrance marked by a tall brown phallus near the door. Husavik is a popular whale-watching centre and his museum has attracted additional tourists.
"We had 6,000 visitors last summer and actually made a profit," Mr. Hjartarson said with a smile. Sixty per cent of them were women.
The specimens, most of which were donated by fishermen, hunters and biologists, are kept in glass jars of formaldehyde or dried and mounted on the wall, creating an atmosphere that is part science lab, part trophy room.
Mr. Hjartarson has paid for only one - an elephant penis nearly one metre long that hangs, stuffed and mounted on a wooden board, in the museum's "foreign section."
Mr. Hjartarson maintains a light-hearted approach to his delicate subject matter, saying a sense of humour and a bit of intelligence are necessary to appreciate the collection.
"I hope visitors leave the museum in a better mood than when they arrived," he said.
And as for the four potential human donors, Mr. Hjartarson said: "If I die before them, my specimen will go in the museum."