September 24, 2015 marked some important changes under the point of view of the educative role played by two institutions in town, specifically the Whale Museum and the Exploration Museum, and for the future of the tourism in Húsavík.
The bad news is that the Apollo 17 Moon Rock was retrieved from the Exploration Museum by the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, only 15 months after being given on loan to the museum. The IINH justified its decision due to security reasons, considering the Exploration Museum‘s security measures not adequated. Dr. Guðmundur Guðmundsson, Deputy Director and Curator of Marine Invertebrates at the IINH, declared: “In general, all security measures at any given time and place, need to reflect the value of the object on display (the Moon Stone in this instance) and how well its wherabouts are publicized”.
It would be hard to find a better place in Iceland than the Exploration Museum to put the Apollo 17 Moon Rock on display and to give more symbolic value to the rock itself. The museum is part of the NASA Museum Alliance and the main section is dedicated to the training of the Apollo astronauts in Iceland in ’65 and ’67. Moreover, after the opening in May 2014, the Exploration Museum surely faced a rapid growth in interest and popularity in Iceland and it was visited by several authorities such as the Icelandic Prime Minister, some members of the Parliament and the U.S. Ambassador to Iceland. A key role in this growth was played by the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo training in Iceland, for which occasion former Apollo astronauts Harrison Schmitt (the man who brought the Moon Rock to Earth), Rusty Schweickart and Walter Cunningham and Neil Armstrong’s family were invited and took part in the various events that happened both in the North-East (Húsavík and the highlands) and in Reykjavík, attended even by the President of Iceland himself. Dr. Guðmundsson excludes the decision taken by the IINH to be final, though: “It is possible that the Moon Stone will yet again be loaned to the Exploration Museum on a temporary exhibit, provided that security measures are stepped up”.
In the meanwhile, anyway, the Exploration Museum will replace the Moon Rock with some new valuable items, part of them donated by the Armstrong‘s family, which are now part of the museum collection.
The good news, instead, is that (part of) the Blue Whale Skeleton is finally in Húsavík, delivered by Þorvaldur Björnsson from the IINH to the Whale Museum. The Blue Whale in question was found stranded in North Iceland in 2010 and kept in storage by the IINH until these very days.
The Húsavík Whale Museum is unique in its kind in all Europe and the only place where to see real whale skeletons in Iceland. Furthermore the Whale Museum is active in many fields and collaborates with the local research centre, the whale-watching companies, IceWhale, IFAW and more, and has educative programs for schools (both local ones and from other areas of Iceland). In other words, the Whale Museum plays a key role for Húsavík as the Whale Capital of Iceland. Since its establishment, the Whale Museum has been sensitive and active towards environment protection and wildlife conservation. In particular, in the last years it worked to promote a more and more responsible whale-watching and to raise awareness, mainly among tourist, of whaling practices and whale meat consumption in the country. When the decision to display the Blue Whale Skeleton in the Whale Museum was taken, it was determined that the skeleton was going to be part of a whale stranding exhibit. Considering also that the 10 skeletons (but one) already on display in the museum are all of stranded whales, the Blue Whale Skeleton will probably have a leading role in reaching the above-mentioned museum‘s goals, apart from offering the visitor the new and exciting chance of experiencing the biggest creature that ever lived on our planet.
For setting the Blue Whale exhibition up, the Whale Museum is closed until March 1, 2016. The other museums in town are anyway regularly open with the following timetables:
Safnahúsið (Culture House) – weekdays from 10.00 to 16.00
The Exploration Museum – weekdays from 11.00 to 16.00
Fjúk Arts Centre – weekdays from 11.00 to 14.00