The Department of Icelandic Language and Literature began with the appointment of a Chair in 1951. This Chair came about in large part due to the North American Icelandic community’s support and donations to an Endowment Fund. With the Endowment Fund, the University of Manitoba agreed to teach Icelandic courses and established a Professorship in Icelandic Language and Literature for that purpose.
Dr. Finnbogi Gudmundsson was the first Chair of Icelandic (from 1951 to 1956), followed by Mr. Haraldur Bessason (1956 to 1987) and Dr. Kirsten Wolf (1988 to 2000). Dr. David Arnason took over the role of Acting Head of the Department from 2000 to 2006 and Dr. Birna Bjarnadóttir, current Head and Chair, assumed the position of Chair in 2003.