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Icelandic Manuscripts Saved from Cost-Cutting Threats

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Icelandic Manuscripts Saved from Cost-Cutting Threats

Skarðsbók

Skarðsbók Jónsbókar, written in 1663. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection will not be moved from its current location in Copenhagen, as had been suggested, RÚV reports. That was the good news brought by Icelandic PM Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson when he returned from his official visit to Denmark yesterday. “A delightful conclusion,” he exclaimed.

The collection, which to a large extent consists of Icelandic manuscripts, is named after its founder, Icelandic scholar Árni Magnússon (1663-1730), who was a professor at the University of Copenhagen. The collection is now part of the university.

The university’s rector, the head of Department of Humanities and the staff of the manuscript collection received the prime minister, his wife, and their entourage in Copenhagen yesterday. Specialists showed their guests the collection’s major treasures, but altogether 1,400 manuscripts are housed in the building. The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík houses the other half.

Major research takes place within the walls of the Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection in Copenhagen, but the collection was moved to its current location in 2002. The manuscripts themselves are in fire-proof storage, where a steady level of humidity and temperature is maintained, in addition to special lighting. Photographing with a flash is strictly prohibited.

A recent report, developed by a Danish consulting firm, suggests that the building be closed in a cost-cutting effort. That suggestion caused major worries, not the least since there was no mention of what would be done with the collection, which, along with the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, is on UNESCO’s Heritage List.

The museum employs one photographer and a preservator. Publishing and the writing of dictionaries takes place within the museum’s walls, requiring time-consuming research. Guðrún Nordal, head of the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík expressed her concern about the report in an interview on RÚV radio on Friday. She stated that cooperation with the two collections is extensive in terms of the manuscripts, publishing and various kinds of language research.

Sigurður Ingi discussed his worries regarding the closure with two Danish government ministers and received the good news: the collection will remain in the building.

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