'This is Not the Penis Museum,' Sign at Icelandic Office Space Tells Confused Tourists

Being next door to Reykjavik's world-famous Icelandic Phallological Museum proved to be a hassle for staff trying to use a co-working space, as tourists constantly barged in to ask whether they were in the so-called "Penis Museum."

After receiving many such requests, a sign appeared on the door. “This is not the penis museum,” it helpfully stated, giving directions to the attraction. “You can’t miss it. It has a big penis logo. Sincerely, the people who work here.”

The sign was spotted by Ásta Helgadóttir, a politician with the Pirate Party, who tweeted a picture of it on Monday with the caption "First world problems in Iceland." The post quickly spread on social media, echoing with the experience of at least one past museum visitor, who confessed to bothering the "friendly but confused workers in cubicles" five years ago.

The post eventually reached the sign creator, Belgian game designer Jonatan Van Hove, who provided some context. The Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) office, which shares the Laugavegur 116 address with the museum, was housing a coworking unit and sometimes museumgoers would get confused between the two. 

Van Hove told Newsweek he would find people wandering around his office on average two or three times a week. "It was on the second floor, so they'd come in through the two front doors, climb the stairs, somehow find my office, which was the closest to the door, and they would ask 'Excuse me, is this the penis museum?'" he said. "Some people were too embarrassed to ask about it. Others would ask me super-seriously about the phallological museum," he added.

The sign dates back to April 2017 and was the result of a particularly busy day in which Van Hove was asked for directions three times. “You'd think that you'd never grow tired of having people awkwardly ask you whether your office is the Penis Museum,” Van Hove wrote at the time, sharing a picture of the sign.

It took him a while to find the right words. "If I made it too funny, people would think it was part of the joke... So I had to make the sign not funny, but it was hard," he said.

The sign worked so well the RIFF decided it to keep it because it was "necessary," as it told Newsweek in a brief statement. A few tourists are still mistakenly coming in without reading the sign, but for the most part, it has been a success. 

"I'm happy with how effective it was and I'm glad it still makes me laugh, it makes other people laugh," Van Hove, who has never actually visited the museum, said.

03-13_Iceland_Museum The logo of the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik is pictured on October 27, 2016. Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images

The museum describes itself as "probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country" and boasts "more than 215 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland."

The collection's most recent addition, a human penis, was added in April 2011, a pledged donation from Pall Arson, who had passed away in January that year. The museum first opened its doors in 1997 in the tiny Icelandic fishing town of Husavik, but it moved to the capital in 2011 to facilitate the growing interest in the collection.

One visitor, Shelley Gibson, describes the museum as "the Pinnacle of all phallological museums I have been here," in her review of the museum on Google a month ago, awarding it the maximum 5 stars. She noted, however, the difficulties with locating it: "I had a little trouble finding it but was pointed in the right direction."