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.