The museum was established in 1964 on the
initiative of Gudlaugur Gislason, a former major of the Westman
Islands and a member of parliament. The municipality runs it. Its
first curator, Fridrik Jesson, collected most of its exhibits and
stuffed most of the birds and marine animals. The fishes in the
aquarium are donated by the fishermen, who are very interested in its
progress. The museum is divided into three sections, i.e. for birds,
fishes and precious and semi-precious stones.
Altogether about 300 species of birds have been
spotted in Iceland, thereof about 85 breed here. On the Westman
Islands, about 30 species, mostly seafowl by the millions, breed.
Three of these species have not yet been spotted elsewhere in the
country; the Manx shear water, the lesser
and the greater leach's petrels.
In spring and autumn, all of the
breeding species of the country and quite a few visitors
from Europe and America are spotted on the islands. Most of
the Icelandic breeding species and many visitors are
displayed in the museum. Many colour variants are also
depicted. In the same hall, a few stuffed crabs and fish species are
displayed. Some of these species rare, such as the deep-sea fishes,
the Atlantic football fish, and the monkfish.
Most of the fish species caught around the country
are displayed in the aquarium along with crabs, polyps, starfishes,
and seashells. The seawater in the fish pools has the temperature of
6°C and is supplied by a 99 feet deep borehole on the museum grounds.
Some of the species spawn every year in their artificial surroundings,
which permits the visitors to witness their breeding.
The almost 2000 precious- and semi-precious stones
have been in the possession of the museum since 1986. They were
collected all around the country by the married couple, who donated
this collection. Only a portion of the collection can be displayed
each time. Most of the Icelandic stones are found outside the volcanic
zones and not in such great quantities as elsewhere as the country is
geologically very young.