Lilja's Richard Museum


Lilja Sigurdardóttir at a museum, photo by Michael Ridpath author of the Magnus Iceland Mysteries
I am breaking out of my narrative flow with this blog post which describes a visit to a certain museum in Reykjavik. We will call it Lilja's Richard Museum. Why Richard?

There is a big problem with this post, and it's the algorithms. The post is about a museum in Reykjavik devoted to a part of the male anatomy. I'm worried that if I use the normal precise anatomical description it will tickle the various algorithms and bots which will read this post in its various guises with unpleasant consequences.

Either they will be shocked and try to suppress it (LinkedIn). Or they will get overexcited and promote it to the wrong kind of people and I will be inundated with sleaze (Google/Facebook). Or filters will block this in email form. So I have decided to call the member in question Richard. Could have been William, I suppose.

So, let me tell you about Lilja'a Richard Museum.

The Richard Museum

This is such a typically Icelandic story. I was in Reykjavik recently, for Iceland Noir, which is a crime festival in Iceland that takes place every couple of years. After our panel in the afternoon, the excellent Icelandic crime writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir suggested that we join her for dinner. Nothing odd about that. But then she suggested we go to her family's Richard museum, where they do delicious Richard-shaped waffles.

So we went. On the way, Lilja explained how her father had started the museum. He had begun putting together a collection of the Richards of all Icelandic mammals from the very large (whale) to teeny-tiny (mouse - requires magnifying glass). He started amassing the exhibits when Lilja was a child. Then he opened the collection up to the public and moved it into a space close to the whale museum in Húsavík. He added his own carvings and certain human exhibits. The museum was so popular that it was moved to Reykjavík a couple of years ago.

Here are some Richards belonging to whales and seals:

Whale and seal members photo by Michael Ridpath author of the Magnus Iceland Mysteries

It may sound to you as if Lija's father – Sigurdur Hjartarson is his name – was a bit of a disreputable showman, but far from it. He was a history teacher, particularly interested in Christopher Columbus and his visit to Iceland – you may remember this played a prominent role in my book The Wanderer. And his attitude is a mixture of serious and playful that works very well.

The truth is, you don't get to see the Richards of the animal kingdom very much, unless you live on a farm. Most of these Richards are standing to attention, and um, depending on what sex you are and your general sociability, many of us haven't seen very many human Richards in that state. So the museum was surprisingly interesting and yet still very funny.

A bit like Iceland really.

The photo at the top is Lilja in front of a picture of her father the founder using a Richard-shaped telephone. In the cabinet are a number of Richards carved by Lilja's father. They are strangely elegant. The woman on the edge of the picture is Karen Sullivan, Lilja’s happy publisher.

I can recommend the café.  The Richard waffles were surprisingly tasty, as was the Iceland Richard Ale and the Philic Pilsner.

The echoing family name

Lilja's family are still involved in the museum. Her brother runs the place now. We were introduced to a tiny baby whose name is Hjörtur. Which makes sense, given that Icelanders often name children after their grandfathers, thus skipping a generation. To confirm this, you need a piece of paper and to put your brain into puzzle mode. We know that Lilja Sigurdardóttir's 's father is Sigurdur Hjartarson, meaning her and her brother's grandfather's name was Hjörtur. Which means that Lilja's brother's name must be Hjörtur Sigurdsson. Lilja's nephew is therefore xyz Hjartarson - we don't need to know what xyz is. And therefore her great-niece, the baby in front of us must be called Hjörtur! Simple, isn't it?

The Museum's name is the Iceland Phal...ogical Museum on Kalkofnesvegur in Reykjavik should you wish to visit it. I haven't up till now because it sounded a bit tacky and I am too cultured to be amused by such trifles. Which shows what a fool I am.

If you have any comments on this post, please use Richard (or William) rather than any more explicit terms. I really don't want to tickle those algorithms; you would be amazed how much unpleasant spam a blog can attract.

If you would like to receive a free copy of my 60-page novella The Polar Bear Killing and occasional emails about my books, sign up here.


  1. Loved this article ...fancy having a museum dedicated to ..ahem.. the male appendage.

    Fantastic news about the new book coming out. I was wondering if there will be any signed copies available ?

    Thanks for the download to the Writing in Ice book as well.

    All the best,


  2. Yes, signed copies of Death in Dalvik will be available from my local bookshop Lutyens and Rubinstein - tel +44 (020) 7229 1010. Hope you like it!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

My Icelandic Crime Novels: How are They Different?

Snow in Iceland

A Five-Day Iceland Itinerary