Mythic creatures, natural wonders, and the mysterious human impulse to collect are on beguiling display in this poetic tribute to the museums of an otherworldly island nation.
Iceland is home to only 330,000 people (roughly the population of Lexington, Kentucky) but more than 265 museums and public collections--nearly one for every ten people. They range from the intensely physical, like the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which collects the penises of every mammal known to exist in Iceland, to the vaporously metaphysical, like the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, which poses a particularly Icelandic problem: How to display what can't be seen? In The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, A. Kendra Greene is our wise and whimsical guide through this cabinet of curiosities, showing us, in dreamlike anecdotes, how a seemingly random assortment of objects--a stuffed whooper swan, a rubber boot, a shard of obsidian, a chastity belt for rams--can map a people's past and future, their fears and obsessions. "The world is chockablock with untold wonders," she writes, "there for the taking, ready to be uncovered at any moment, if only we keep our eyes open."