Skip to main content

The Institute

The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies is an independently funded academic research institute at the University of Iceland, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Business Affairs. Its role is to:

  • conduct research in the field of Icelandic studies and related scholarly disciplines, in particular Icelandic language and literature;
  • disseminate knowledge in these fields; and
  • preserve and augment the collections entrusted to its care.

The director of the Institute is Guðrún Nordal, professor in medieval Icelandic literature.


Board of Directors

Every four years the Ministry of Culture and Business Affairs appoints a five-member board to oversee the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies. Three of the directors are nominated by the University Council of the University of Iceland, while two are appointed directly by the Ministry, one of whom acts as chairperson.

The Institute’s current Board of Directors:

  • Illugi Gunnarsson, chairperson, former member of the Icelandic parliament Althingi
  • Sigrún Magnúsdóttir, vice-chair, former Minister
  • Guðrún Þórhallsdóttir, associate professor
  • Torfi Tulinius, professor
  • Terry A. Gunnell, professor


Manuscript Department - The Árni Magnússon Manuscript Collection

The Institute’s Manuscript Department carries out a variety of scholarly and practical projects involving that part of the Árni Magnússon collection of Icelandic manuscripts which was repatriated to Iceland in 1971−1997. The collection is preserved under the best possible conditions, and emphasis is placed on its cataloguing, maintenance and augmentation. The manuscripts are currently being digitally photographed with a view to increasing their accessibility and facilitating new avenues of research.

Philological research and text criticism focuses on the texts of the manuscripts, often in co-operation with various other parties involved in manuscript studies. Numerous critical editions and other scholarly publications are constantly under preparation, as well as facsimile editions of manuscripts and the journal Gripla.

Head of department: Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson


Language Planning

The Institute’s Language Planning Department works on various scholarly and general projects concerning language planning and terminology.

The Department provides advice and direction on questions of language usage and terminology, based on specialized expertise. It is responsible for the maintenance and development of the Language Usage Database and the Term Bank.

Department personnel carry out research in the fields of language policy and planning, terminology and lexicography work and spelling and language usage manuals.

The secretariat of the Icelandic Language Council is located at the Language Planning Department.

 Head of department: Ari Páll Kristinsson



The Department of Onomastics works on various scholarly and general projects concerning the study of place names and personal names. It maintains the Institute’s Place Name Database.

The Department offers assistance to individuals, institutes, communities, and companies by disseminating information and answering inquiries. It places emphasis on research connected to place names, personal names, and other topics connected with onomastics and co-operates with several Icelandic and foreign institutes.

The Place Name Committee is located at the Department of Onomastics.

Head of department is: Emily Lethbridge


Lexical Studies & Lexicography

The Department of Lexicography is a research body within the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies whose function is lexicography, lexicology, language technology, and the study of Icelandic lexis in general.

The Department maintains the archives and collections of the former Institute of Lexicography (Orðabók Háskólans), and is responsible for the collection of further data on words and word usage in written and spoken Icelandic. The Department’s archives preserve important sources on Icelandic language usage, which are accessible to scholars and the public, for instance, through the online Written Language Archive, accessible through the Institute’s website.

Current projects include work in both theoretical and applied lexicography. The Department is a leader in new approaches in compiling dictionaries, in particular in the creation of electronic dictionaries.

A number of projects are in progress in the field of language technology in support of linguistic research, dictionary compilation, and the development of language technology software for use both within and outside the Institute. The former Institute of Lexicography was an early adopter of computer technology in research and dictionary compilation, and the Department continues to develop this research and related projects.

Head of department: Ásta Svavarsdóttir


Ethnology & Folklore

The Department of Ethnology and folklore is in charge of the Institute’s ethnography collection, which contains a variety of audio recordings of oral heritage and traditions.

Emphasis is placed on the preservation, maintenance, classification and cataloguing of the collection, in order to make it more readily accessible. Work is being done on an electronic database accessible through the Internet, with part of the collection already open to the public in this form. This will facilitate research on the material in the collection and publication of material of interest to specialists or a wider audience.

Head of department: Gísli Sigurðsson


Administration - Main Office

The Department of Administration is responsible for financial management, accounting, procurement and sales, personnel matters, IT, management of assets, and rental of the scholars' apartments.

The main office is located in the building Árnagarður, on Suðurgata, and is open weekdays from 9−12 and 13−15.

Administration manager: Sigurborg Kristín Stefánsdóttir


International Office

The role of the Institute’s International Office is to promote and disseminate Icelandic language and culture abroad. The Institute co-operates with the Humanities Department of the University of Iceland in holding courses in Icelandic, as well as supporting Icelandic studies and research on Icelandic as a second and foreign language.

The International Office oversees teaching in Icelandic abroad and provides services to teachers of Icelandic. The Institute is a member of the Co-ordinating Committee for Nordic Studies Abroad; the Committee's office is operated within the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies.

The International Department oversees relations between the Institute and foreign students and scholars. It administers the Snorri Sturluson Fellowships, which are granted yearly to foreign writers, translators, and scholars. The handling of the Icelandic Government Scholarships Programme, providing support for foreign students to study Icelandic in Iceland, is also the Department’s responsibility.

Project managers: Branislav Bédi 


Library & Reading Room

The Institute has a research library with extensive holdings in Icelandic studies, medieval European studies and ethnography. Library facilities are intended for use by the Institute’s scholars and others who pursue research activities or have an interest in this area of study.

The librarian is Guðný Ragnarsdóttir