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Feud Over Blue Whale Skeleton

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Feud Over Blue Whale Skeleton

Blue whale

Photo: Wikipedia.

The skeleton of a blue whale, which was found beached at Skagi in Northwest Iceland in 2010, will be put on display at the Húsavík Whale Museum. Representatives of the Icelandic Museum of Natural History (NMSÍ) have expressed their disapproval with the decision, RÚV reported.

On Monday the director of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History received a letter from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, instructing him to negotiate with the Whale Museum for the storage and exhibition of the skeleton with the latter, for “a specified period of time.”

Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, had previously announced this last October at the Progressive Party’s convention in the county of Fljótsdalshérað, in East Iceland.

At the time plans had been underway for the skeleton to be part of an exhibition installed in Perlan by NMSÍ.

The previous administration of the Social Democrats and Left-Green Party had approved ISK 400 million in funding for the project, but when the current government of the Progressive and Independence Parties took office in May 2013, those plans were disrupted.

NMSÍ made other arrangements to finance the exhibition and so the PM’s remarks last year came as a surprise.

Now it appears that those plans have been finalized and that the the blue whale is on its way north.

Director of NMSÍ, Hilmar J. Malmquist, published a statement on the organization’s website detailing his opposition to the decision.

Vísir spoke with Illugi Gunnarsson, Minister of Education, who claimed to have received three independent evaluations on the matter—from the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources, the Icelandic Institute of Natural History and NMSÍ. Of the three only one opposed the decision: NMSÍ.

“I have however said in parliament and elsewhere that I think it is only right that when the Museum of Natural History has acquired permanent housing, that plans be made to transport the artifact back [to the South of Iceland], and a cast made to keep at the [Whale Museum up North],” Illugi told reporters.

Bergsveinn Þórsson, chairman of the Icelandic Museums Association (FISOS), expressed his agreement with the committee’s decision.

While he ultimately believes that an artifact as culturally and scientifically valuable as the blue whale skeleton should be preserved by the country’s primary museum of natural history, NMSÍ, while it is still unclear whether the museum will be able to properly store and care for the artifact, it is better off being kept at the Whale Museum.

In its application to the government committee tasked with determining the future of the skeleton, the Húsavík Whale Museum proposed a less conventional approach to the exhibition of the bones.

Instead of suspending the whale from the ceiling, with the bones arranged as they would have been when the animal was still alive, the plan is to lay them out in black sand, just like they were when discovered at the beach in Skagi.

In this way, museum representatives hope to tell a different story than usual—one concerning the interplay of various natural forces.

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