Conservation workshop and photo studio

Shortly before his death in 1730 Árni Magnússon bequeathed his collection of manuscripts and printed books as well as his fortune to the University of Copenhagen in order for the collection to be subjected to scholarly use.

The continuing use of the manuscripts creates a need for care and conservation, and for this reason the deparment houses a photo lab and a conservation workshop, dedicated first and foremost to caring for the manuscript collection. The first photographer was employed in 1954, and the first conservator followed in 1956.

Transfer to Iceland

During the transfer to Iceland of part of the manuscript collection the conservators and photographers concentrated their efforts on the conservation and photographic recording of the manuscripts that were to be transferred. They worked closely during this process, and photos were taken before, during – and in many cases following – the conservation.

As a result, all the manuscripts transferred to Iceland are available at the Arnamagnaean Institute in high quality photo formats, allowing the staff as well as guests and students to study them closely.

On the website, established by the Arnamagnæan Institute, it is possible to follow the conservation of two manuscripts from start to finish.

Research, education and exhibition

Photographers as well as conservators have had their share of work since the completion of the transfer in 1997. Apart from the daily work with the conservation of the many manuscripts remaining in Copenhagen, they take part in the dissemination efforts of the Institute, assisting at manuscript displays and exhibitions. Light being a principal enemy of manuscripts, they keep a tight track of the display and use of every single manuscript in order to be able to give a manucript a break when needed.

Research in conservation and climate control is part of their daily work. The conservators contribute to the sharing of knowledge with colleagues worldwide and participate in interdisciplinary work with the philologists of the department. Biennialy they have an excellent opportunity for knowledge exchange at the international seminars on the Care and conservation of manuscripts., which are hosted by the Arnamagnæan Institute.

The conservation workshop also offers traineeships for students from the School of Conservation at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and from schools and universities abroad. The wide range of conservation work provides the students with an opportunity to test their skills and provides the Institute with a strong international network.


The Arnamagnæan Institute also contains a modern digital photo studio, which takes new high-quality digital photos as well as digitizing the older analog photos. Among other things, this entails the scanning of old 35 mm black-and-white film and microfilm in order to make them digitally available.

Pictures of the manuscripts are coveted in numerous contexts, such as publications and exhibitions, or even postage stamps with manuscript motives, which were produced by the Danish and Icelandic postal services in collaboration i 2014. Not least, the pictures are used in the Institute's publications, among them the book 66 manuscripts from the Arnamagnæan Collection, and they are available in the database The growing interest in the Viking Age and in the Danish Middle Ages also means that the photographer is often asked to take manuscript photos for public display.