Abstracts: Friday, 2 March 2018 

Session 1A: Wood

Bettina Ebert


University of Oslo, Norway

Parallel lives: object biographies of two medieval polychrome sculptures (c. 1420s)

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

This presentation focuses on a case study currently forming part of the author’s PhD research in Conservation Studies. The thesis focuses on a selection of late-medieval polychrome sculptures in Norway, and explores these from the angle of object biographies.

Two sculptures of the same narrative type will be compared, one located in northern Germany and the other in Norway. Their object biographies begin at a similar point, from iconography, construction and material point of view (similarities in appearance and paint layers) but diverge afterwards. The case study takes the form of a narrative cultural biography, wherein various aspects of the sculptures’ passages through time will be highlighted, supported by conservation studies-based investigations.

This will include an iconographic discussion of the unusual combination of an enthroned Madonna with a nativity scene, as well as a discussion of the meaning of “Joseph cooking”. How would such a semi-narrative scene be incorporated within a larger altarpiece? The construction methods as well as material investigation of gilding and paint layers will be explored. In addition, both sculptures were conserved in the 1970s, albeit with different approaches and results, thus adding another angle to the sculptures’ life histories.

The Torsken Madonna comes from Torsken church on Senja island, northern Norway, and was acquired by the Museum of Cultural History (MCH) in Oslo in 1861. Extensive parts of the gilding are lost, though some of the painted areas are relatively well-preserved. Visual examination of the state of preservation reveals patterns of usage, for example the presence of burn marks, which suggest devotion employing candles in proximity to the sculpture. Torsken church will be discussed, the potential placement of the sculpture within, and its relationship to other sculptures and church furnishings. Archival photos and conservation reports highlight the sculpture’s passage into the museum, where its exhibition history reveals a change in its role from religious object of devotion to a work of art. Moving into the sculpture’s contemporary life stages, it will be linked to its alter ego, a 20th century plaster copy currently hanging in Torsken church, which remains in active use by the congregation. The copy is interesting as the Virgin’s gilded robe has been turned into a white and gold robe, indicating that the copyist confused the remnants of white ground for white paint.

The Dassow Madonna, from Dassow church in northern Germany, was previously situated in Siechenhaus chapel, Schwanbeck. The chapel was eventually bombed due to its proximity to the border between East/West Germany in 1973, and the chapel contents moved to nearby Dassow church. The sculpture was stripped of its paint and gilding, possibly in the 19th Century, when bare wooden sculptures were considered aesthetically more pleasing (Holzsichtigkeit).  It was restored in the 1970s and given new crown finials as well as a protective box frame. The sculpture’s importance for Dassow community will be explored.

Professor Visa Immonen

Archaeology, art history, history

University of Turku

Material for Interdisciplinary Study – Wood Use in Medieval North-Eastern Europe

a panel discussion

Wood was a ubiquitous material for premodern communities living in the subarctic region. The present panel focuses on the use of wood in North-Eastern Europe from the 12th to the 17th century. Our goal is to shift emphasis from such artefact groups as ceramics, metal objects, and individual works of art to this less inconspicuous but omnipresent substance. We explore new ways of approaching wood and wood objects in the medieval period, and creating a nuanced vista to how the wood, through its transformations, is a medium of communication, intertwined with cultural and social changes.

We will take a long-term perspective on the significance of wood, embodied in both material and metaphorical movements of the substance from forest to households and markets, and from blocks of wood into ecclesiastical sculptures. This complex history can be tackled with the concept of ‘biography’. It provides tools for analyzing the movements and alterations of wooden artefacts, and mapping out how material things change but also affect social and natural environments.

The panel crosses the established borders between archaeology, art history, history, paleoclimatology, and paleobotany. The spectrum of available source materials – urban archaeological finds along with bog finds, works of art, and written sources – will be discussed.

We emphasize an interdisciplinary approach that acknowledges the importance of disciplinary traditions, but aim at finding common research questions and approaches that unite the disciplines in new configurations.

The interdisciplinary panel examines challenges in the study of wood, whether related to the relevant archives and collections, research histories, disciplinary traditions, and combining contemporary methods of the sciences and the humanities. This puts emphasis on fruitful dialogue and integration of different disciplinary methods in a viable way.


Dr Janne Harjula, University of Turku

Dr Visa Immonen, University of Helsinki

Dr Mia Lempiäinen-Avci, University of Stavanger / University of Turku

Dr Ilkka Leskelä, University of Helsinki

Dr Elina Räsänen, University of Helsinki

MA Katri Vuola, University of Helsinki

Session 1B: Exceptional and everyday biographies

Dr Hannah-Lee Chalk


University of Manchester, Manchester Museum, UK

Biography or Itinerary? Acknowledging the complexities of earth science knowledge objects

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

This paper draws from doctoral research into university earth science objects and collections - namely, the rocks, minerals and fossils that are found in both campus museums and academic departments. These disciplinary knowledge objects may be displayed behind glass in museums or carefully arranged in climate-controlled stores, analysed in research laboratories, arranged in sets for students to study, or squirreled away in the offices of researchers, but fundamentally, this vast material archive exists first and foremost as a functional scientific resource. As such, the meanings and values of these things cannot simply be explained away as symbolic or representational and therefore, these knowledge objects usefully prompt us to think differently about how we approach and understand their lives.

The object biography provides a useful tool for thinking and talking about change, drawing attention to the ways in which the meanings and values of objects vary as they move between contexts throughout their ‘lives’. However, the approach is underpinned by a number of assumptions that, for earth science knowledge objects, are particularly problematic. Firstly, in extending the biographical approach to objects, there is an assumption that the lives of objects can be understood on the same terms as the lives of people. Therefore, the lives of objects are treated as finite and bounded, spanning the period from birth to death. Secondly, it follows that biographical approach assumes that the physical integrity of an object remains intact for the duration of its life. Thirdly, in producing a narrative around a single fixed object to which things are done, meanings are assigned, and values are bestowed, the biography is only concerned with the period during which an object is deemed to have meaning. As such, the biography is more of a chapter than a whole-life story of an object’s existence. A fourth challenge arises from the sense of linearity that is characteristic of the biography; in producing a chronological narrative, the biography focuses on the temporal dimension at the expense of the spatial. Finally, while the biography has usefully extended the repertoire of objects beyond that of a ‘stage setting’ for human action, there remains a general aversion towards the attribution of anything other than secondary agency to objects. Thus the biography reinforces the distinction between passive objects and active subjects, and therefore overlooks the capacities of things and their effects.

Such assumptions fail to account for situations when the object of study pre-exists human beings, as is often the case with earth science knowledge objects. Indeed, since the capacity of earth science specimens to function as knowledge objects relies upon their existence in a (museum) collection, these things also challenge the long-held view of the museum as an institution where objects go to die (or at least retire). A further complication lies in their status as ‘epistemic objects’ - things that can never be fully known – since this calls into question the notion of a finite life span. Indeed, in attempting to ‘know’ these things, the processes and practices of research will often result in the fragmentation of an object. It is therefore necessary to acknowledge that for earth science knowledge objects, their ‘lives’ may encompass both an ‘original’ object as well as the various samples, specimens and derivatives, along with data, images, photographs and other analytical objects, that co-exist and circulate independently whilst remaining somehow connected.

This paper will present a critique of the object biography, using first hand accounts from those who work with and care for earth science objects and collections to reveal some of the limitations of this approach. In order to capture the complexity of earth science knowledge objects, this paper will suggest that the ‘object itinerary’ offers a promising alternative to the biographical approach. After a brief overview of the ‘object itinerary’, this paper will use contemporary accounts of earth science knowledge objects to illustrate how this approach can be applied in practice. I will focus on two contemporary accounts of the collection and subsequent use of earth science material; one concerning eleven research samples that were collected from a locality on the top of a mountain called Cima Di Gagnone in the Swiss Alps, and the other regarding three teaching specimens of metamorphic rock that were collected during a field trip to Ireland. By tracing these objects, from their coming into being as they are collected, through their transformation into collection items, to their subsequent transitions into different spheres of use, this paper will reveal some of the insights that may be gained by approaching their lives as itineraries.

Senior Researcher Toni Ryynänen

Consumer Economics

University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute

Everyday Object in Consumption Experiences: Exploration into Recalled Life Situations Involving a Thermos Bottle

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

Toni Ryynänen - Visa Heinonen

Consumer researchers became interested in the experiential aspects of consumption at the beginning of the 1980s. The research agenda extended towards nostalgia and extraordinary experiences at the beginning of the next decade. Although consumption related nostalgia is a well-covered research topic, the recalled life situations involving everyday objects are studied in a lesser extent.

Exploring the relationship between everyday objects and life events capable of inducing consumption experiences is timely for several reasons. Memories have been utilised profoundly creating and maintaining product imagery for the selling purposes in advertising, the banking sector, heritage film and nostalgia website industries: the remembrance of times past, longing and collecting have been an increasing business since the 1980s.

There is a need to understand better the interplay between remembered consumption experiences and everyday products from the consumers’ perspective. Thermos bottles are seldom considered as special family heirlooms, having pecuniary value or high cultural or otherwise special meanings associated to artefacts such as pieces of art or collectibles. However, these simple and ordinary everyday products of a little value embody, mediate and represent events in the consumers’ past that induce recalled experiences and appear as homely, represent continuity and are meaningful to the consumers in various ways.

Our aim is to analyse recalled experiences that draw from individuals’ life situations involving a thermos bottle. The purpose is to examine how the consumers describe this relationship in their own words. The research materials consist of 480 written experience descriptions collected with a writing contest administered by a Finnish company Airam Electric Ltd. The materials were analysed with an interpretive approach. The recollections situated to leisure and work contexts: physical characteristics of thermos bottles and other complementary products, meaningful others, repeating practices, and scent memories were described in detail.

The preliminary results indicate that the experiences are connected with continual and singular life events: 1) Everyday routines with an object and 2) maintaining of object related traditions represents continual life situations whereas 3) the transitional stages of life and 4) extraordinary events involving an object point to the sporadic life events. The presentation is concluded with a framework that extends the current debates about recalled consumption experiences involving an everyday object from the perspective of the consumers’ life situations. Differences between the continual and sporadic object relationships are also suggested.

Session 1C: Theory and practice

Senior Conservator, PhD Ari Tanhuanpää 

Art History, Conservation

Finnish National Gallery

The Life-span of Artworks Between the Earth and the World

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

I am under impression that the metaphor “life-span of an artwork” is increasingly becoming a “dead metaphor” – a metaphor whose metaphoricity has been gradually worn-out to such an extent that it is only barely discernible. Therefore, instead of presenting the question that has sometimes been asked: “What shall we do with artworks at the end of their life-span?”, I would like to pose another question: What shall we do with the metaphor “life-span of an artwork” which seems to be in the evening of its life?

I approach the issue from the point of view of phenomenology by using the ontological distinction philosopher Martin Heidegger made between the “earth” (Erde) and the “world” (Welt) as my starting point. In simplified terms, the “earth” can be understood to be the physical objectivity of an artefact, the “world”, in contrast, is the cultural and symbolic context, the accessibility, of beings. In Heideggerian terms, between the “earth” and the “world”– alternatively, between the work (ergon) and its “working” (energeia) – there is strife (Streit), an ever-ending conflictual tension between concealment and disclosure. This is the tension of finitude. We can feel this tension in our lives, too: our existence is determined by our finitude. We live at every moment in view of our future inexistence, although we cannot have a relationship to it, since, as Epicurus wrote: ”As long as we exist, death is not here, and once it does come, we no longer exist.” If artworks really have a life-span – as has been argued – we share our finitude with them.

Although the metaphor “life-span of an artwork” seems to be at the end of its life-span, as I argue, we should not forget its origin as a metaphor. An artwork, or any other artefact per se, does not have a life-span or biography, and therefore it is incapable of dying, for instance. Heidegger thought that only we as rational, “world-forming” human beings are capable of properly dying. Inanimate matter – a rock, for instance – is totally “worldless” and therefore cannot die. Even a living animal – a lizard basking in the sun on this rock – does not have the “world” in the sense we do, and therefore is almost as incapable of dying as a stone is: when its organism ceases to function, it only perishes. Ergo: neither a stone nor an animal has a life-span. Therefore, how can we say an artwork has one?

As Jacques Derrida reminded us, a metaphor is never innocent. When using the metaphor of the life-span of an artwork, we perform a speech act in which the artefact in its present physical integrity and its current symbolic-cultural relatedness is confronted with the loss of them. In such speech acts, the metaphor of the life-span acts as a detour through which the real possibility of non-being is transported into the artefact. Typically, metaphors are created by juxtaposing elements incompatible with each other, generally the literal and the metaphorical; in this case the animate and the inanimate. It can be concluded that this metaphor – and the artefact that is considered to follow its logic – are taken to be “alive” only as long as there remains a considerable tension between these two polarities. Preserving the artefact, then, signifies preserving this tension.

Within the field of conservation of contemporary art, it is common to think that when an artwork is no longer considered to correspond to the artist´s intention (due to physical changes in its structure, appearance or functionality, for instance) it becomes defunct. However, the artwork is not reducible to the artist´s intention only, nor is it reducible to its physical objectivity, to its “earth”, in a narrow sense. Just as we do not have only one world, we do not have just one earth. The “earth” does not remain the same in different contexts. In different “worlds”, the very same stuff generates different materialities, other “earths”. As long as the “earth” is capable of creating different materialities in different “worlds”, it is capable of disclosing the artwork. When it ceases to do so – when it has exhausted all its metaphorical force – all we have left is the worldless stone-cold earth.

Doctoral candidate Lilli Sihvonen

Digital culture

University of Turku

Re-publishing and Updating a Product – The Cultural Neo-production Process as a Method to study Product Biographies and Meanings

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

This paper discusses how the cultural neo-production process of products can be used as a method to study product biographies and meanings. The cultural neo-production process is formed from the simultaneous use of planned obsolescence and planned revivification. The product is first turned obsolete which means that the product or a certain version of it is no longer available to the consumer. Then, after some time the product is re-introduced to the consumers and usually updated somehow. What these kinds of products have in common is that they more likely carry a meaningful history that is often used by the manufacturer. They also have meaning in their users’ lives. The range of re-publishing and re-release dates and the updates made to the products are individual features. The products are often referred to as classics.

For instance, the Finnish board game Kimble has been constantly on the market since 1967. During this time it has been updated every ten years or so meaning that the original version has gone through subtle changes. The manufacturer Tactic Games has published so far two retro versions of the game and several licensed versions in which Kimble is designed according to some character or theme such as Angry Birds Kimble. Kimble’s history is strongly linked to its manufacturer’s history, and it has shown during the year 2017 which is Kimble’s 50th anniversary.

Kimble has been used mainly as a board game and its purpose has been bringing people together, but some users have extended its use to a toy, decoration item, learning device and so on thus changing the purpose and meaning of the object. This is not the case with every Kimble version since it depends on the object design and on the user how s/he uses the object. For instance, the licensed Kimble versions such as Winnie the Pooh Kimble can invite users to play more than the original version since the game pieces resemble the character.

These individual item biographies link to the biography of the Kimble product. By studying both the individual versions and the product life-span in general we are able to find what meanings the product has or has had at different times, how the meanings have or haven’t changed and why. For instance, if Kimble is by one individual used as a toy, this is part of the biography of that certain version but also part of the biography of the Kimble product. By using the cultural neo-production process we might also be able to anticipate some future changes in the biography.

The presentation will be given in the form of PowerPoint. Some product examples will be presented, and how the cultural neo-production process actually came to be.

Dr. Nina Robbins


Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Helsinki University

Active Values in Finnish Museums 2020

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

The objective of this paper is to present research results regarding values in the area of collection management, as well as to present the theoretical background for an upcoming research project Active Values in Finnish Museums 2020. The concept of object biographies allows us to view the network of values in the field of cultural heritage from a multidisciplinary perspective, thus creating the groundwork for a fresh exchange of ideas. This paper focuses on the museological aspect of values and examines how such theoretical discourse can eventually work to benefit practical museum work. The paper will introduce the term museological value assessment as an important part of everyday practices in museums. This intends to observe values from a heritological point of view, where values are seen accumulating century after century.

This heritological aspect will help us to comprehensively understand historically significant objects. It will reveal their impact factor. This means that a museum and its collection do not exist in an isolated past, but will be understood as a meaningful part of everyday life in a society. Museological value assessment helps to create a value network, which consists of selected values specific to a given museum or heritage organization. This network is created through a process in which the organization will itself determine the specific values for its own identity. This network is not based only on our current idea of values or identity, but on those that have accumulated century after century, and is seen, for example, in the existence and caretaking of a collection object throughout history. By studying these networks, specific to each museum, it is possible to gain information about the mutual values of museums, in order to reach a common voice. Such a common voice is especially important so that heritologically meaningful aspects of society are not seen only as something market-oriented or profitable for current consumption.

Prior research has shown that there have been value discussions and evaluations in museums, but these projects have rarely been recorded in official documents. For example, in the field of collection management and collection disposals, values have over time been discussed. As a result of this, there are hierarchies regarding various disposal methods, but the value discussion up to now in museums has mainly remained tacit. The upcoming research will ultimately provide detailed data on values in the entire museum field and bring forth tacit knowledge. Furthermore, this research will offer tools for current museum professionals, academia and students of museology to conduct museological value assessments, be they theoretical or practical in nature.

Session 1D: Collective and forged biographies

Professor Anu Lahtinen


University of Helsinki

Untrue stories, forged biographies? A sword, a chair, and a wedding chest

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

My paper deals with the problems of some items that have been previously identified as having been present in the lives of the families Fleming & Stenbock in the sixteenth century. The problem is that the “language of the objects” does not fit well with the written biographies of the very same objects. I will discuss this problem, looking forward to receiving feedback and ideas for further analysis.

First, there are a chair and a wedding chest, the chair with the inscription referring to “Catharina Stenbock Regina”, the third spouse of Gustavus I Vasa of Sweden. The wedding chest, having similar decoration, has two engravings which represent the arms and initials of Clas Fleming (d. 1597) and of his wife Ebba Stenbock (d. 1614). It has been thought that the furniture was bought by Katarina Stenbock to the wedding of Clas Fleming & Ebba Stenbock (1573).

According to the famous (and controversial) art historian Vilhelm Slomann, “The two objects seem to have come to Sweden together and probably at the beginning of the last quarter of the sixteenth century, at a time when Portuguese carracks made Lisbon the great European emporium of Indian goods to be spread over Europe by Portuguese merchants, or fetched on Dutch and English boats to our northern shores… The thread-thin stems are known from the Indo-Persian art of the Moghul Emperors; wherever a little twig branches off there is a leaf and each schroll ends in a flower or a bud… For all practical purposes I believe to be safe to consider all laquer work found in Europe and dating from about 1600 and fairly far on in the century as having come from India, or from China and Japan” (Slomann, Burlington Magazine 1934).

However, the language of the objects is ambiguous. Firstly, the text ""Cathar(ina) Stenbock Reg(ina)” is strange, as the Queen Dowager never used the family name. Thus, the engraved text is not contemporary. Secondly, the engraved coats of arms on the chest are of very poor quality and in recent discussions with art historians, the chest has been estimated to look rather like a late 18th – early 19th century object. If the coats of arms are forged, what then is the history of the chair that seems to be of similar origins as the chest? What is left of the value of these objects as historical sources, what are their real biographies?

The third object that I will discuss in this context is an executioner’s sword. According to the Swedish inscription on this sword, at display at The Royal Armoury of Stockholm, the sword was used to behead Johan Fleming, son of the aforementioned Clas Fleming & Ebba Stenbock, in Turku in 1599. The blade is from the sixteenth century, however the hilt is from the eighteenth century, and the inscription may be of that period as well. One of the problems with all these items is that the references to historical persons seem to have been created only afterwords, and that the items may not even date from the sixteenth century.

This kind of objects are interesting but also frustrating for a historian interested in finding material evidence of the past. With my presentation, I want to raise awareness of the problems, discuss the problem of the fragmentary documentation of the history of these objects, and to exchange ideas on what to do with objects that may have forged biographies.


Lahtinen, Anu: Death with an Agenda: Preparing for an Aristocratic Death in Reformation Sweden. Dying Prepared in Medieval and Early Modern Northern Europe. Eds. Anu Lahtinen & Mia Korpiola. Leiden, Brill 2018

Lahtinen, Anu: Lahjat ja aatelin suhdeverkostot 1500-luvun Ruotsissa. [Engl. Gifts and social networks in 16th Century Sweden.] Esine ja aika. Materiaalisen kulttuurin historiaa [Engl. Objects and time. History of material culture], eds. Maija Mäkikalli & Riitta Laitinen. Helsinki: Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura, 2010, pp. 34-65.

Lahtinen, Anu: “There’s No Friend like a Sister”: Sisterly Relations and the Rhetoric of Sisterhood in the Correspondence of the Aristocratic Stenbock Sisters. The Trouble with Ribs: Women, Men and Gender in Early Modern Europe. Eds. Anu Korhonen & Kate Lowe. Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Helsinki 2007, pp. 180-203.  http://www.helsinki.fi/collegium/e-series/volumes/volume_2/

Dr Alex Snellman


Emil Aaltonen Foundation / University of Helsinki                                                          

A Collective Biography of Civil Uniforms

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

In my presentation I am trying to find ways to combine individual object biographies to a collective biography of objects. In other words, I am applying the prosopographical method of human biographies to object biographies (on the definition of ‘prosopography’ see: http://prosopography.history.ox.ac.uk/prosopdefinition.htm).

This presentation is a part of my postdoctoral study ‘In the Clothes of Imperial Power: Society Constructed through Civil Uniforms 1809–1917’. The main material of the study comes from the collections of the National Museum of Finland: circa 80 civil uniform coats. It is their collective biography that is the topic of my presentation.

Civil uniforms are non-military uniforms that are currently typical for police officers, postal workers, railway personnel and other similar occupations, but in nineteenth-century Finland were used by all the higher officials as well, such as senators, governors and judges. In my postdoctoral study I am focusing on the uniforms of these higher officials who at beginning of the Finnish independence (1917) lost these signs of their elevated status. Only the civil uniforms of the lower officials remain for some occupations.

The concept of a biography draws attention to the uniqueness of an individual lifespan – be it a lifespan of a person or an object. In contrast, a prosopography – to rephrase Karl Ferdinand Werner (see the link above) – permits the political history of objects and ‘events’ to be combined with the hidden social history of long-term evolutionary processes. As a social and political historian, I am fascinated by this definition as I often find the history of objects to be overtly cultural and representational.

By defining objects as agents and focusing on their collective biography, I can make them relevant for political history and social history. I can bypass the typical aestheticizing non-political cultural-history interpretation that is so common in museums.

It is typical, of course, that artefact-based studies are based on dozens or even hundreds of objects. The advantage of the prosopographical approach is to combine their agency, their lifespan (both chronological and spatial) and their similarities and dissimilarities to a coherent interpretative whole.

Dr Liisa Seppänen

Archaeology, museology

Turku University

Biography of men’s clothes in the village of Lahti since the late 19th century. Some aspects to the research, conservation and maintenance of archaeological finds of modern times.

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

Liisa Seppänen - Päivi Repo

In 2013, large archaeological excavations were carried out in the city of Lahti. The excavations revealed plenty of material related to the history of the village preceding the city and especially to the last few decades prior to the destruction of the village in 1877.

In this paper, we are focusing on presenting and discussing the biography of textiles found in the archaeological excavations of Lahti. The majority of the fragments belonged to men’s suits from the 1860s and 1870s representing the fashion of the time. Later, the worn-out clothes had been intentionally selected and cut out for the reuse e.g. in industrial purposes and finally ended up in the filling layers of the street after the destruction of the village.

After the excavations, the fragments have been analysed and textiles compared with the collections in the Lahti City Museum and other ethnographical material from that time. Besides similarities, comparing the fragments with the collections of the museum, ethnographical studies and historical sources brought out many differences. Some of the collections date back to the time of the birth of museum ideology and museum institution and consequently, they do not represent only the material culture of the time they belong to, but also the ideas and values of the collectors and muse-ums workers at that time. By contrast, archaeological material has formed as a result of different kind of selection, abandonment and depositional processes.

In this paper, we are addressing also to issues related to the research, conservation and maintenance of the archaeological material from the modern times.

Session 2A: Objects in changing contexts

Dr Godfrey Evans

European Decorative Arts

National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The Old State Drawing Room from Hamilton Palace

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

This PowerPoint presentation by Dr Godfrey Evans, the Principal Curator of European Decorative Arts and an authority on Hamilton Palace, and Charles Stable, the conservator in charge of the restoration project, will examine the fascinating Old State Drawing Room from Scotland’s greatest powerhouse and treasure house, which is now on display in the new art and design galleries in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The Drawing Room was one of five exceptionally well-documented State Rooms fitted with very elaborate decoration by the London woodcarver William Morgan, who had worked on Christopher Wren’s new Chelsea Hospital and King James II’s Chapel Royal at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. Along with a very impressive oak staircase by Morgan, which was also undertaken around 1699-1700, they completed the baroque palace that had just been built by the 3rd Duke of Hamilton and Duchess Anne in order to demonstrate the status and importance of the Hamiltons as the premier peers of Scotland and the revival of the family’s fortunes after the deaths of the first two Dukes (the Duchess’s father and uncle) during the Civil War and the confiscation of their lands and other assets.

Godfrey and Charles will focus on the cost of the various components of the Drawing Room and the discovery (through dendrochronological analysis) that some of the oak used by Morgan was obtained from the nearby former royal hunting forest at Cadzow. They will discuss the restoration and alteration of the room by Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852), Scotland’s greatest collector, who added a massive extension to the palace and used the Old State Rooms to display many of his very finest Old Master paintings, examples of French furniture and objets d’art. In this room, the Duke added a one-ton black marble chimneypiece (in 1810) and inserted his coat of arms as a Knight of the Garter in the centre of the overmantel (after 1836).

In the aftermath of the First World War, it was decided to demolish the palace and many of the principal rooms were acquired by French and Company, the leading firm of antique dealers and interior decorators in New York, in 1920. French’s made major changes to most of these rooms. In the case of the Drawing Room, they turned the existing half-panelled room into a fully panelled room, using large panels from the famous Long Gallery of the palace, and commissioned a copy of the chimneypiece, using much better quality black marble, from a New York masonry company at a cost of $1884. The notorious newspaper proprietor and art collector William Randolph Hearst acquired the Drawing Room and at least 10 other rooms from Hamilton Palace. The Drawing Room languished in storage and failed to sell at the sale of Hearst’s period rooms at Gimbel Brothers’ department store in New York in 1941-42. It was eventually donated by the Hearst Foundation to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1956 and was transferred to the National Museums of Scotland in 1991.

The last part of the presentation will review the difficult restoration work and the challenges of erecting the woodwork and black marble chimneypiece within a museum gallery setting. It will also explain their use as a backdrop for over 200 outstanding items from Hamilton Palace, the Lennoxlove silver-gilt toilet service acquired by Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox around 1682 (which is one of only three surviving marked Parisian toilet services from the reign of Louis XIV), and important Huguenot-style silver commissioned by the 5th and 6th Earls of Moray.

Doctoral researcher Laura Berger

Architecture (history and theory of)

Aalto University

The Vyborg Aalto Library, Russia - A Gellian reading

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

This presentation introduces a case study of one building combined with a theoretical framework outlined by the anthropologist Alfred Gell. The case is that of the Vyborg Library, originally opened in the Finnish city of Viipuri in 1935, designed by the architect Alvar Aalto. However, the city, along with the wider Karelian area were annexed to the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War. Consequently, the building, the city and this part of the Karelian area became of restricted access to both Finns but also to the wider international community. This is exemplified in the area becoming referred to as the ‘lost Karelia’ in Finland, and number of international writers disseminating the misunderstanding that the Library, a ‘pearl of modern architecture’, had been totally destroyed in the war, thus accessible to the future generations only through drawings and photographs. As follows, the Library's existence is characterised by this particular building having stood in its original location, almost throughout its existence serving as a public library, while around it the entire Finnish population was changed to a Soviet one, large part of the city became destroyed, and state borders were moved.

The theoretical perspective which comes helpful for articulating the more complex ideas associated with the case is outlined by Alfred Gell in his work ‘Art and Agency an Anthropological Theory’. The particular term drawn from Gell’s work is ‘distributed object’, referring to an object which can be simultaneously conceived as one item, still consisting of multiple parts. What I want to propose is that there are three most interesting points to the notion of ‘distributed object’ in respect to this case. The first notion is that material objects challenge understanding time as an evenly distributed chronological chain of sequences. As an example, in the case of the Library, it is the original 1935 drawings and photographs which have essentially remained in circulation, creating an effect that the importance of this building is untouched by the passing of time. Second is the idea of representativeness, namely, that we can recognise a part of something to belong to a larger whole, and in a sense ‘stand for it’. Again, in the case of the Library the images and drawings, but also for example the famous three legged stool Aalto originally designed for this particular building are small parts which have been disseminated around the world as aspects which ‘stand for’ this Library building, almost like visit cards.

Third, I argue that Gell’s theory comes most evidently useful for negotiating the dilemma of how one object as the Library might be perceived to stand for not only smaller fragments, but also for larger and more abstract notions. In the context of architecture, the Library holds a canonised role as an example of modern architecture, while in the context of history, this same building has been brought up in an interesting way in association with the so-called ‘lost city’ of Vyborg and the ‘lost Karelia’. While it is evident that one building could never fully summarise the events which have taken place during its life-span, or all that could be said about modern architecture, I propose this Library offers an outstanding example of a Gellian ‘distributed object’. As a case, this building makes it possible to begin to unravel both how one object can stand for very different types and scales of notions all at once, but also, why material objects matter.

Session 2B: Finnish, Karelian and Estonian handicrafts

Conservation Manager, PhD Suvi-Päivikki Kettula

Textile history, textile studies, craft science

Espoo City Museum

A Story of Rocking Chair Covers

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

A rocking chair cover is almost a virgin as a cultural research object, although a rocking chair itself has had a reputation of a seat of honour in Finnish domestic houses. In over 150 years there has been a manner of getting more comfort and beauty by covering the seat or back of chairs, benches and rocking chairs with different kinds of soft and decorative textiles. What kind of production ways or textile techniques has one used? How have techniques changed during passed decades? Does the textile cover show somehow the status of the user? What kind of uses have there been in a biography of rocking chair covers?

At the end of the 18th century, a rocking chair was still a rather rare piece of furniture in Finland, but in the middle of the 19th century became slowly more common. At that time it was used mainly in the houses of bourgeois, wealthy peasants and gentry. Very often used by the host and the hostess of the house. A rocking chair reached its highest popularity in the most social classes between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In some large mansions in western Finland, there have been up to seven rocking chairs in one room and all of them were covered with different kinds of decorative textile. Due to urbanization and the small size of the urban dwellings, the use of rocking chairs in houses was reduced. The style of interior decoration changed and furniture like padded sofa sets or armchairs replaced rocking chairs.

Fortunately there are still many rocking chair covers to explore in Finnish museum collections. In addition to authentic artifacts, many designs by Finnish textile artists have also been preserved. Interior photographs, newspaper and magazine articles have helped to create a biography of these interesting artifacts. In the history of use of rocking chair covers, there are case studies of different types of covers inside of the biography of covers as a whole.

The most rocking chair covers in the museum collections date from the 1870s to the 1970s. The oldest have been made with tapestry crochet, stitched with cross or satin stitch, weaved with rya rug piles or done with Tunisian crochet technique. Decorations were usually placed on the longitudinal centerline of the covers. There were sometimes very showy pompons and tassels attached at the ends of the covers, which masks the chair to be suitable in interior decorations at the end of the 19th century. With more modern covers, between 1930s and 1970s, people used different weaving techniques like double weave and whip or weft tabby. There were also soft tufted covers and crochet with white threads. The latter was usually used during warmer summer season. All these textiles were hand made. Very often they were padded with cotton and equipped with lining and textile fastening tapes.

In addition of handicraft hobby or gift making, chair covers were sold to raise funds for labor unions, religious associations, sewing societies and women's associations. With common effort by working together people got money to help the poor, for political actions and for the benefit of feminism movement. Rocking chair covers were mentioned as lottery prizes in announcements of many newspapers. Some also received cash prizes for well-done chair covers in agricultural or handicraft exhibitions at the end of the 19th century.

Even though the use of rocking chairs has decreased during the last decades, it is still possible to find some evergreen rocking chair cover designs for sale.

Doctoral student Jenni Suomela

Craft studies

University of Helsinki

I. K. Inha's Textile Collection

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

In the summer of 1894, young I. K. Inha travelled to northern parts of Russian Karelia (Vienan Karjala) for five months. His mission was to photograph the life and the people of the magic region where the poems of Kalevala were originated. Into Konrad Inha (1865-1930) was a well-known photographer and recorder of the folklore. He is even referred to as the national photographer of Finland. He is also widely known for his literature translations and journalistic work. His journey was funded by SKS (Finnish Literature Society) and besides the photographing project, he collected poems, and also textiles and other objects along his travel.

This textile collection is at present a part of the Finno-Ugric Collections of The National Board of Antiques, with title number SU4522. It consists of altogether 143 items. Now a sampling of 40 plant fibre textiles of this collection is under study from the perspective of material studies. The aim is to identify the bast fibre materials.  Flax, hemp and nettle have been widely used as textile materials in northern Europe especially before the arrival of cotton. The identification of different bast fibres has become possible only recently through modern technology, and this collection is a part of my wider research concerning the material identifications.

In addition to only the production materials, these textiles have many stories to tell. Though the plot needs to be woven together from various different sources.  I. K. Inha wrote a travel account Kalevalan laulumailta: Elias Lönnrotin poluilla Vienan Karjalassa: kuvaus Vienan Karjalan maasta, kansasta, siellä tapahtuneesta runonkeruusta ja runoista itsestään in 1911, 17 years after the trip. In addition to this written source, there are other books and biographies about him and his journey. There are all the photographs he took, and of course, the material evidence, the textiles themselves.

By combining these sources, it is possible to draw conclusions about the textile culture Karelians had before the end of the nineteenth century. The materials they used, the trade routes they had, the consumption habits that were prevailing, the ideas of beauty and practicality – these are just some of the topics this study can shed light on.

PhD Kadri Tüür

Craft studies

Viljandi Culture Academy, University of Tartu, Estonia

Artefact studies in Viljandi Culture Academy, University of Tartu

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

Kadri Tüür, Kristi Jõeste, Ave Matsin, Madis Rennu

Regarding artefacts as having biographies shaped by the objects’ life cycles and their cultural redefinition as they are passed from hand to hand, opens up a whole array of research possibilities. Anthony Harding in his introductory essay to a special issue of Distant Worlds Journal, devoted to artefact studies, mentions two main approaches that can be used in the attempts to “make mute objects ‘speak’” – compositional analysis and distribution mapping (Harding 2016: 7). We believe it is also important to know how the objects have been born in the first place: which techniques and materials have been used, what have the choices of the maker been? What qualities of an object are there intentionally, and which by an accident? If we wish to make a copy of an object, what are the choices that we have to consider?

There are several methods that can be used in such practice-oriented artefact studies. In the presentation, we will introduce some of the approaches that our staff and students in the department of Native Crafts of Viljandi Culture Academy, University of Tartu have utilised in their artefact studies in the framework of native craft research and applied heritage studies.

•                      Semiotic artefact study, used for explicating the meaning of artefacts in the given community. The pragmatic and social functions of the artefacts are closely related to the notion of “object biography”. As used by people, objects are very dynamic in the beginning of their life-cycle, then the intensity of changes gradually diminishes, until they finally get used-out and may acquire a completely new status or form at the end of their “life” – Kristi Jõeste’s work on Kihnu skirts.

•                      Experimental copy-making, used for archaeological textiles and their metal adornments – works of Ave Matsin, Astri Kaljus, Margit Keeman.

•                      Experimental re-creation, used for reconstructing some archaic and undocumented knitting techniques – Anu Pink’s work on stocking heels.

After giving the examples we will discuss the strengths of each of these approaches, and we are welcoming all critical inquiries into our study methods.


Harding, Anthony 2016. Introduction: Biographies of things. – Distant Worlds Journal 1, 5–9.

Kopytoff, Igor 1986. The Cultural biography of things: commoditization as process.  – The Social Life of Things. Commodities in cultural perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 64–91.

Session 2C: Objects and ethnicity

Doctoral researcher Eeva-Kristiina Harlin

Saami studies and art

Giellagas Institute, University of Oulu

Ládjogahpir from Dálvadas - Foremothers horn hat

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

Eeva-Kristiina Harlin and Outi Pieski

Ládjogahpir – a crown like, graceful headgear that was used by Sámi women until the end of 19th century in today’s Northern Norway and Finland – is the core for this paper. The 28th of February the permanent Sámi exhibition in the National museum of Finland is closed. A small room, only 38 quadrat meters has for now been the last place where a red horn hat, ládjogahpir used by Sámi women until the end of the 19th century, has been visible for the public. When this exhibition closes down, this hat has been exhibited in the National Museum from 5th of March 1923. Almost a hundred years it has been one of the focal points of the four permanent Sámi exhibitions. Gathered by Theodor Schvindt “father of Finnish ethnology” from the Sámi village Dálvadas in 1902, the hat was already at that time considered to be “old fashioned” and had mainly not been used for the last 20 years. Gazed through a showcase in the dim room, the hat is beautiful, made of red cloth and decorated with cotton fabric and a gold ribbon tied around the wooden horn. It feels that this hat has strong symbolism around it. Some references tell that this hat was banned by the Laestadian preachers, or the Lutheran priests, since the devil inhabited the wooden horn. Some tell that this hat was so unpractical that it no longer used. However it might be, the hat is currently in the center of interest. In recent years some Sámi women, among them artists, politicians and artisans have made one themselves and are now using it and many are planning on making such a hat to themselves. Ládjogahpir has also been a subject of film and a joik, the traditional Sámi way of communication by singing.

In our art- and researchproject we will follow the life of Dálvadas ládjogahpir and describe the different phases in time and space. While looking at its history, like who made it or who sold it, we will also try to clarify what kind of meanings this particular type of headgear had in different phases and what did they present, where are these hats now and why? We will also follow the path of this ládjogahpir and its life while it travels towards the future as art made by artist Outi Pieski who has her roots in Dálvadas. Pieski will use methods both from duodji (traditional Sámi handicrafts) and visual art when producing art that has Dálvadas ládjogahpir as a preliminary subject. However she will also study the several pieces of ládjogahpir situated in museum collections in the Nordic countries as well as European museum. By illustrating the headgears as a group with the help of museums registration photographs, they can be seen as “samples” of the culture of Sámi women. However, for Sámi they can simultaneously symbolize a gathering of Sámi people. Therefore these hats become emotional objects, and it can even be considered whether they can be considered as objects at all.  Furthermore in her work the Pieski studies and portrays the many meanings this particular headgear has, as it becomes almost living and builds a connection between her and her ancestor, máttárahku. Like people and objects can have mutual biographies, so also this research has a mutual biography with the art piece as they are intertwined and produced simultaneously and getting material from each other.

Senior Lecturer, Dr Sweta  Rajan-Rankin


University of Kent, UK

Hair as a Liminal Object: Materiality, Performativity and Ageing Bodies of Colour

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

This paper explores the embodied and material quality of human hair in representing social identity within everyday life. Hair can be theorised as a liminal object. While hair is an important part of dress practice, it also has a strange ‘living dead’ quality when it is detached from the human head (Tarlo, 2016). Animated by the head that once produced and treasured it, human hair retains a visceral, physical material presence, it has weight, strength, fragility, varying textures and hues, and each of these qualities has different value when it enters the commercial market. On the human head, it is a visible and representative form of social identity. It is fussed with, stroked, cajoled, puffed up, sleeked down. It is the most touched part of the human body.

In this paper, I use hair as a symbolic and representative material object to unpack the relationship between the body and social representation (Shilling, 2012), with a specific emphasis on ageing bodies of colour (Rajan-Rankin, under review). The relationship between race, ethnicity and later life can be powerfully unpacked through an examination of embodied and material histories. Hair, is a particularly important material artefact that links race, ethnicity and old age. Historically, hair texture was weaponised and used as a basis for racial classification (Negroid, Caucasoid, Australoid). One might say the very study of hair offers an embodied starting point to unpack the politics of ‘race’. Terms like ‘going grey’ (Ward, 2015) similarly highlight the central role of hair as a discursive and representative process by which we encounter our own ageing bodies. If ageing is a materialising process linking physically changing bodies with their lived experiences and changing environment, then hair can serve as an important analytical tool representing a ‘liminal’ space: half living, half dead, animated by the body’s desire to conform with and challenge stories of how we must age, and represent ourselves as people of colour.

Case study findings from an ethnographic study of the self-styling hair practices of Black elders in Brixton, UK will be presented in this paper. Theoretical provocations will be put forward on how hair studies can provide innovative ways of understanding ageing bodies of colour in terms of “assemblage”, from a new materialist perspective.

Select References

Rajan-Rankin, S. (under review). “(Re)animating ageing bodies of colour: From the post-colonial to the post-human”. Journal of Aging Studies.

Shilling, C. (2012). The Body and Social Theory. 3rd edition. London: Sage.

Tarlo, E. (2016). “Entanglement: The secret lives of hair”. London: Oneworld Publishers.

Ward, R. (2015). “Hair and age”. In. J.Twigg & W.Martin (Eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology. London: Routledge.

PhD, Educational Curator Leena Svinhufvud

Art history, design history, museum studies

Design Museum Helsinki

Object Biography of a Lappish ring: Perspectives to Design History in a Museum

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts


Leena Svinhufvud, PhD, Educational Curator, Design Museum Helsinki

Susanna Thiel, MA, Curator, Design Museum Helsinki


In the collection of the Design Museum Helsinki (former Museum of Applied Arts, founded in 1873) there is a silver ring from Lapland, dating from the 19th century. By type, it is a ”Lappish ring” (Lapinsormus) which is the popular name for a silver ring with small hanging loops, in Finland renownly (re)produced by Kalevala Jewelry after original museum pieces. Similar rings were used during a long period of time by various Sami culture groups in Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The ring was donated to the collection in conjunction with the First Industrial Arts Exhibition in Helsinki in 1881, by count Carl Mannerheim. The Society of Crafts and Design – owner of the museum collection – consisted of members of Swedish-speaking cultural elite and the early collection represents their material culture. In this case, the ring illustrates a fashionable “touristic approach” to collecting Sami objects in the 19th century and exoticism in preserving material culture of the ”other”, the indigenous people of the North.

In the 21st century, the Lappish ring is an anomaly in the Design Museum collection, disconnected and strange especially in relation to the contemporary idea of Finnish design. This an ”original” Sami object. We do not know (yet) who made the ring and where, nor do we know of the designer. In our view, the history of this particular Lappish ring, however, discusses topics that are relevant to critical design history and collection studies: changing concepts and value hierarchies of design, hierarchies of production and consumption and representations of contemporary material culture in the museum – then and now.

In a museum, even design objects are not only specimens of serial production but also authentic objects with individual histories. Besides the cycles of production, exchange and consumption, objects have different life-trajectories in the museum. We think that the Lappish ring is a valuable ”relic” of previous collection policies. Using this case study we will discuss the possibilities of object biographical thinking in a design museum.

Session 2D: War, politics and memory 1

Dr Antti Matikkala


University of Helsinki

Finland, World War II and the matter of foreigners' honour(s)

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

Object biographies of the insignia of the Finnish orders of merit – the Cross of Liberty, the White Rose of Finland, and the Lion of Finland – awarded to foreigners during the World War II offer interesting perspectives to a range of issues. How the foreigners valued their Finnish decorations and when they wore them? Amid the Berlin bombings some Germans requested replacement issues for their insignia destroyed by the Allied bombs.

The post-war period opens new kinds of questions also related to the honour of some of the recipients. While imprisoned after the war, many decorated foreigners lost their Finnish insignia to their captors. However, in case the honour had not been forfeited, any recipient willing to pay the redemption fee was able to acquire new insignia. Among those who acquired new Finnish insignia were the former Chief of Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS Karl Wolff (1959), Lieutenant Hans-Heinrch Solf (1967) and SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Riedweg (1991).

The stories the insignia of the orders have to tell do not end at wearing them, but in their display at funerals and later in museums. Generaloberst Franz Halder had vowed to wear his Cross of Liberty with 'the dignity that belongs to the brave warrior people of Finland' in 1942. When Halder was buried with full military honours of the Bundeswehr in 1972, the star of the Cross of Liberty was displayed along with his other decorations at the funeral. Among the final homes of Finnish decorations is the RAF Museum, London, where two Finnish Grand Cross stars that belonged to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring ended up as war-booty. One wartime Grand Cross of the Cross of Liberty is now in the Kremlin Museums.

Some pieces have wandered long and far. The Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, given to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1942, was found by the US troops in Tyrol in 1945. Via Texas and Ohio Ribbentrop’s Finnish decoration finally returned to Finland in 1996.

Further reading: Antti Matikkala, Kunnian ruletti: korkeimmat ulkomaalaisille 1941–1944 annetut suomalaiset kunniamerkit (The Roulette of Honour – the Highest Finnish Orders to Foreigners 1941–1944) (SKS, Helsinki, 2017).

Master of Arts Riku Kauhanen


Independent/University of Turku

Tools used in making Finnish trench art

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

Finnish trench art made during Continuation War (1941–1944) is  a rather less studied field in artefact studies and war history. Trench art objects are rather common memoribilia among war veterans and their relatives, but usually the biography of objects is scarce and sometimes it's completely lost.

In this representation I will focus in the process of making trench art objects by studying the tools. I will use objects, folklore (collections of Finnish Literature Society, SKS), interviews and documents (National Archives) as sources for this representation.

The tools used in making trench art were personally owned, owned by the army or improvised by the makers. Especially the improviced tools – nails, pieces of glass, broken bayonets – are interesting, since they can be confused with common waste.

Because conflict archaeology is a fast growing field of study, this representation gives light to an artefact category which might become commonplace in archaeological studies of World War II.

Savvas Kazanis


Municipal Museum of Kalavryta Holocaust, Greece

Three artefacts, three survivors, one story. Operation “Kalavryta”

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

Savvas Kazanis, Scientific Assistant of Municipal Museum of Kalavryta Holocaust
Christos Fotinopoulos, President of Municipal Museum of Kalavryta Holocaust

Municipal Museum of Kalavryta Holocaust houses and present to a wide range of visitors the tragic events connected to the Operation “Kalavryta”. An operation organized by the German occupation forces on December 1943 on a synonymous city in Greece and the surrounding area.  The museum’s building housed an elementary school during the pre-war and postwar period but also had the fate to be the building where families of the city experienced and suffered the ferociousness of the Nazi atrocities. It was the place where families gathered, men and boys over the age of 13 separated from the rest of the relatives and at last where women incarcerated .  The result of this operation was the execution of the male population of the area and the destruction of the villages around.

This paper will present three artefacts from the museum’s archive connected with the history of the Municipal Museum of Kalavryta Holocaust. It will attempt to illuminate the historic events of the “Operation Kalavryta” through the point of view of three survivors. Everyone is the owner of any object and simultaneously survivor. The first object, a wedding ring dated on 1937, belonged to a Greek survivor named Georgios Georgantas from the execution occurred by the German forces on 13 December 1943. The second one, a military ID card, belonging to an Alsatian soldier, named Roediger Walter , survivor from the execution occurred by the resistance group of the area at the same period of the ‘Operation Kalavryta” and the third one, a passport issued on 1946, belonged to the first postwar major of the city, Takis Spiliopoulos, survivor from the execution and one of the four Greek representatives to the Trial of Nuremberg .  How these artefacts are combined and how could be a helpful evidence on the research of the Second World War’s history.

The presentation gives shortly the historical events connected with the “Operation Kalavryta” and the history of the area before the war and how the area and habitants were affected by the operation. The events which played a leading role to this operation which has as result the execution of 696 boys and men, and the destruction of 28 villages, including 3 monasteries, on the surrounding area. More other, will examine aspects of history that can be drawn from the above-mentioned objects, and how they are linked to this tragic event by examining the stories of survivors and through documents from the German Military Archives , to understand the causes and effects of war. The presentation will be close with a short video, a testimony from one of the survivors.


  1)Municipal Museum of Kalavryta Holocaust, 2008. ‘A house of our Heroes’, an attempt to approach the tragedy in Kalavryta. 2008, Kalavryta.

 2) H. F. Meyer, 2002. ‘Von Wien nach Kalavryta. Die blutige Spur der 117. Jager-Division durch Serbien und Greicenland’. Mannheim:Peleus.

 3) C. Foteinopoulos (ed), 2011. ‘On the Trail of Memory, Kalavryta 13-12-1943- Testimonies’. Kalavryta: DMKO (in Greek)

 4) Army General Staff - Army History Division, 2012.  ‘Operation Kalavryta” - The action of the 117 Hunters Division through the German Archives’.  Athens: Army General Staff - Army History Division (in Greek).

Session 3A: Manuscripts

Conservation Professor, with PhD Maria Casanova

Paper conservation

Faculdadede Ciênciase Tecnologias / Universidade Novade Lisboa, Portugal

Tracing the historic meaning of two books of hours: the interdisciplinary research underlying conservation decisions versus ‘object biography’ interpretation

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

Mª Conceição Casanova (1,2); Ana Lemos (2); Rita Araújo (1, 2, 3)

The new focus on material cultural draw attention to the way people and objects histories can interact and inform each other. The central issue of 'object biography' is about the way social interactions involving objects and people create meaning.

Books of Hours are important objects of our cultural heritage, that can exibe impressive 'biographies', being initially commissioned by powerful owners, passing to their family descendents, till institucional library/archive environments of today, resulting in large visible transformations, namely in its bookbinding. Through interdisciplinary research involving material and conservation studies and the art history analysis of its textual and iconographic content it is possible to trace its singular history and understanding value changes and the meaning incorporated along its existence that may result in significance alterations.

In this presentation a team of researchers from art history to conservation sciences, reveal features of the present physical and conservation appearance of two books of hours kept in the National Palace of Mafra / Portugal that allows tracing its historic path, discuss aspects of its meaning and significance evolution and propose a biography interpretation for each case.

The relevance of objects biography for the conservation decision-making process is also discussed and demonstrated through the analysis of these two case studies. In close relation to individual object biography, the conservation decisions and the treatments step by step of textbloc and bookbinding will be presented. Two different conservation solutions for each case will be also examined and compared, covering significance recognition versus conservation aims.

1 Department of Conservation and Restoration, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, 2829-516 Monte de Caparica, Portugal

2 IEM, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Avenida de Berna 26-C, 1069-061 Lisbon, Portugal

3 LAQV-REQUIMTE, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, 2829-516 Monte de Caparica, Portugal

Dr Toby Burrows                 

Manuscript studies

University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Tracing the Afterlives of Medieval Manuscripts: the “Mapping Manuscript Migrations” Project

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

Tens of thousands of European medieval manuscripts have survived until the present day. As the result of changes of ownership over the centuries, they are now spread all over the world, in collections across Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. They often feature among the treasures of libraries, museums, galleries, and archives, and they are frequently the focus of exhibitions and events in these institutions. They provide crucial evidence for research in many disciplines, including textual and literary studies, history, cultural heritage, and the fine arts. They are also objects of research in their own right, with disciplines such as paleography and codicology examining the production, distribution, and history of manuscripts, together with the people and institutions who created, used, owned, and collected them.

Over the last twenty years there has been a proliferation of digital data relating to manuscripts, not just in the form of catalogues, databases, and vocabularies, but also in digital editions and transcriptions and – especially – in digital images of manuscripts. Overall, however, there is a lack of coherent, interoperable infrastructure for the digital data relating to manuscripts, and the evidence base remains fragmented and scattered across hundreds, if not thousands, of data sources.

The complexity of navigating multiple printed sources to carry out manuscript research has, if anything, been increased by this proliferation of digital sources of data. Large-scale analysis, for both quantitative and qualitative research questions, still requires very time-consuming exploration of numerous disparate sources and resources, including manuscript catalogues and databases of digitized manuscripts, as well as many forms of secondary literature. As a result, most large-scale research questions about medieval manuscripts remain very difficult, if not impossible, to answer.

This paper will report on the “Mapping Manuscript Migrations” project, funded by the Trans-Atlantic Platform under its Digging into Data Challenge and led by the University of Oxford in partnership with the University of Pennnsylvania, Aalto University in Finland, the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes in Paris. With partner institutions in four countries, this project is building a coherent framework to link data from different sources and to enable searchable and browsable semantic access to aggregated evidence about the history of medieval manuscripts. It is using this framework as the basis for a large-scale analysis of the history and movement of these manuscripts over the centuries, including such questions as: how many manuscripts have survived; where they are now; and which people and institutions have been involved in their history.

The paper will report on the new digital platform being developed, the sources of data which are being aggregated, the research questions which this assemblage of big data is being used to address, and the ways in which this evidence can be presented and visualized.

Co-authors: Professor Eero Hyvönen (Aalto University), Dr Lynn Ransom (University of Pennsylvania, U.S.), Dr Hanno Wijsman (Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes, France)

Session 3B: Handicrafts and textiles

Researcher Annika Winberg

Ethnology, craft science, (textile history, museology)

Genealogy and Object Biographies - A Case Study of Embroidered Pictures in late 18th Century

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

In times of the French revolution, in the late 1700s, it was common that bourgeois and noble girls in Åbo - Turku, and probably other towns in Finland, were placed in a pension by a French mademoiselle over winter. This was an early boarding school system that gave young women education in languages, proper manners and social skills, but also practical skills such as sewing and embroidery. Emphasis on other languages such as German and English also occurs in Åbo which give somewhat different subjects in the education. During the stay with a French mademoiselle the girl embroidered two pictures in human hair on silk as presents for her parents. These pictures were framed under glass and in embroidery dedicated to her precious father and her precious mother and also signed with the embroiderer’s name and year of embroidery. The practice or custom is well known in Sweden and it appeared in Finland due to close relations to Sweden: kin, extraction, seafaring, commerce and pensions in region of Stockholm.

For a scientific article published in journal Finskt Museum 2013-15 I studied “hair pictures” or “silk pictures” in the collections of Turku Museum and the home museum of Jacobson’s, museum “A Home” at university Åbo Akademi. The pictures where all in original condition, except for one that had broken and was conserved during research-time. The objects could be found in the digital museum catalogue and some in open search database Finna and were well described, some with a digital photo attached. The object biographies were still incomplete and I couldn’t find any research on the subject. Due to the embroidered dedication in French that include the name of the father respective mother and the embroidered signature of the daughter it was possible to trace these persons and their ancestors’ genealogy, date of birth and death and marriage, on open genealogical web-sites. With this information I could define the age of the girl when she embroidered the picture, the youngest being about 11 years, the most common 13 to 14 years of age. Knowing the date of death I could further trace inventories of the deceased person´s estate. In the Provincial Archive in Turku I could find inventories, also available on Digital Archive of the National Archives, after two noble women who were embroiderers.

The use of genealogical data as a method for a complete object biography is an advantage. Genealogy combined with knowledge in how material goods are inherited regulated by law of inheritance gives the possibility to assume the owner and whereabouts of goods over time. This enables a theoretical reconstruction to biographies of inherited objects, which needs verification to be found as oral memory or in letters, diaries, note books, inventory lists of any kind, convey documents, drawn pictures, photos, publications etc. The usage of written biographies or biographies online such as National Biography of Finland by SKS Finnish Literature Society is also to recommend. As a curiosity one of the two embroidered pictures can be seen in a photo taken in the Jacobson´s home drawing-room. It´s hanging on the wall close to small framed photographical person portraits standing on shelves. Genealogy is definitely a shortcut to provenience of antiques or any biography of the object inherited in the family.

University lecturer, PhD Päivi Fernström

Craft science

University of Helsinki

“Tablecloth is part of interior design” – Interpretations and stories of tablecloths 

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

Through civilizations, textiles have had an important function to merge culture, tradition and heritage. To put cloth on a table is one of the oldest ways to use a textile. The way the church used white linen tablecloths on the altar has spread to the dining tables. The first mention of table setting and tablecloth in the North is from the 9th century. Besides of the tablecloths long life, research of it has been modest in Finland. Attention is usually focused more on the tableware that are placed on the tablecloth, or on the design of a tablecloth. 

In this presentation, I will focus on the meanings, stories and uses of a tablecloth. Is a tablecloth just a cloth under the more meaningful and important tableware? What kind of biography will the tablecloth form when given different connotations? Have the meanings changed during the past fifty years?

My first research data is collected by Tampella Linen Mill in 1968 in Finland. The mill organized a contest related to linen to find Finland´s most beautiful tablecloth. They received 745 responses. I have read and organized this data seeking answers for my interests.  The second data is collected in September 2017 by interviewing people about their habits and manners of using tablecloth. This data includes 10 interviewees.

In the 1960s, tablecloths were felt as aid for memories, carriers of thought, and through them people felt a strong contact with the past generations. The fact that the tablecloths were made by their own family members was an important factor in the biography of the tablecloth, and raised its value in the owner’s mind. Strong memories were attached to the tablecloths and people told them with pride. In 2017 the tablecloths in my data were industrially made, but were very particular in the sense of their owner. Often, the interviewees own collecting hobby and understanding of the rarity of the cloth among other cloths, raised the value of the tablecloth. The age of a tablecloth and memories of family parties extended its symbolic value even if the cloth was not worth it in monetary terms.

The ritual role of the tablecloth became important in both data, essentially when people are setting the table with their own tablecloth: ""When a clean, fragrant and ironed linen cloth is put on the table, the dignity and the atmosphere are guaranteed.” Tablecloths have also been used for different purposes, like in World War II as a snowsuit, or in 2017 as a concrete memory of the people who attended feast - each person would write their own signature on the cloth.

Comparing the two data, it is interesting to make remarks of changes in how people use tablecloths, and in which ways they are meaningful to them. Also interesting were the ideas of beauty and practicality, and the biographical story one would construct.

Session 3D: War, politics and memory 2

Dr. Claire Jerry

US Political History

National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, USA

The Biography of a Campaign Button:  Who Writes the Final Chapter?

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

Political campaigns in the United States, although sometimes seeming to go on forever, have a definable beginning and end.  As a result, many of the artifacts produced to promote political candidates appear designed to be ephemeral, disposable, short-lived.  But is that, in fact, the case?  This paper will investigate the biography of one of the most pervasive of political items—the campaign button.   It will explore, in the words of Kopytoff, not only how such a thing ages but how it reaches the end of its usefulness, if it ever does.  In this paper I will analyze the biography of campaign buttons by answering three broad questions:  how was the artifact type developed, what are the ages of a campaign button’s life-span, and what forms does the end of the biography take?  I will focus particularly on how different types of museums can influence the final stage.

Buttons appeared on the American political scene during George Washington’s first inaugural when they were little more than commemorative clothing buttons.  As the two-party system emerged, clothing buttons changed into decorative medalets and then badges.  The development of celluloid in the 1890s made production of the pin-back button commercially feasible and, from 1896 to the present, buttons have been essentially unchanged.   Interestingly, although they no longer bear a resemblance to clothing fasteners, the term “button” is still the accepted name for this category of campaign artifact.

The life-span of contemporary pin-back political buttons follows three fairly predictable ages.  First, they are campaign commodities.  Manufacturers sell the buttons to others who will resell them (either to raise campaign money or as a source of income for commercial vendors) or will give them away to promote a campaign.  The second stage is the buttons’ use by the recipients/purchasers.  These individuals use buttons as personal statements even if the buttons are not actually worn.  As the campaigns promoted come to an end, the final age of buttons begins.  In contrast to the beginning, the end of a button’s life-span is less clear.  A button may be disposed of and many surely are.  However, the widespread availability of historic buttons suggests that this end stage is more likely to be characterized by retention.  Some who keep buttons after their stated campaign purpose has run its course collect them for personal memory, some for a hobby, some for commerce, and others—particularly museums—for public memory.

As a museum curator, I have worked in four different museums with a particular focus on political campaign artifacts—a small private museum focused on a single political figure, a state museum with a regional collecting mission, and two federal museums, one with a very specific narrative, one broad and national in its scope.  The final section of this paper will explore how these four museums tell the end of a campaign button biography differently, using examples of identical mass produced buttons found in each collection.  The “end” of a button’s life-span means something distinctive depending on a museum’s lens which can range from the individual candidate, to the individual donor, to the office of the presidency, and even to the entire American political system.  Finally, I will explore the impact of these different final chapters on those who eventually become the last “users” of the buttons—museum audiences.

Dr. Wojciech Szymanski

Art history

Institute of Art History, University of Warsaw, Poland

Life-after-Life of the Socialist Neon Signs in Contemporary Poland: The Strategies of Preservation, Conservation and Musealisation

a PowerPoint presentation by one expert

In Poland, the first neon signs appeared in the inter-war period but their popularity reached its peak in the post-war period and the times of the People’s Republic of Poland. The socialist “prosperity” in the 1960s and 1970s adorned the streets of Polish cities and town with hundreds of neon signs. What needs to be emphasised is that they were designed by professional artists (printmakers and graphic designers in particular) based in the academies of fine arts and commissioned by two state-controlled bodies (one based in Warsaw, the other in Katowice). As a result, they were on the one hand the advertising signs, specimens of the applied arts and, on the other hand, singular works of art – the light drawings in the public spaces. For the communist propaganda, they testified to modernity of Polish cities and socialist well-being. For their consumers, they were a rare example of the “urban beauty” to be found in grey, dilapidated and largely industrial cityscapes of post-war Poland.  In the 1980s, the neon signs entered the crisis phase – together with the martial state and economic collapse that Poland experienced. The neon signs – those delicate glass objects which demanded a continuous supervision and protection by conservators – also suffered from frequent blackouts which resulted in burning out and defects. The new Poland of the 1990s largely concerned with the economic crisis brought by a new political order also showed no interest in the neon signs.

The renaissance of the socialist neon signs in Poland has been observed over the last decade or so. City activists, private enterprises and local governments have all started to appreciate the artistic and aesthetic values of the neon signs – despite the fact that only few of them survived until the 21st century. Inseparable from this interest is the question of their conservation, preservation and maintenance. Currently, there are no legal or professional guidelines as to how to deal with them. The fight for their survival is reminiscent of walking in the dark. Should they be treated as tangible objects and should be separated from their original special context? Should they be approached as integral to the shops and hotels for which they were designed and, consequently, left where they are? And what if the shops or hotels are not operating any more and the space is now occupied by other bodies? Should the material with which they were made and technologies which allowed them to shine be preserved? Or, alternatively should we protect the designs and drawings and re-create them and their shapes by means of new materials? Finally, should they be restored in order to work as they did in the past?

The present paper will offer a number of individual “biographies” of the Polish neon signs, including their present fates. Special attention will be paid to the attempts at establishing the museum of neon signs (Warsaw) or the open neon signs’ galleries (Wrocław), as well as efforts to re-animate them site-specifically (the case of Paulina Olowska and her works in Rabka, Warsaw and Krakow), to re-use them performatively (Kraków) and re-claim them.

Dr. Wojciech Szymański, Assistant Professor, Department of the History of Modern Art and Culture, Institute of Art History, University of Warsaw, Poland. He is an independent curator and art critic; member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), author of the book Argonauci: Postminimalizm i sztuka po nowoczesności: Eva Hesse, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roni Horn, Derek Jarman [The Argonauts: Postminimalism and Art after Modernism: Eva Hesse, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roni Horn, Derek Jarman] (Ha!art, 2015), and numerous academic and critical texts; curator of group and solo shows and art projects. His current research focuses on visual memory of the Great War.

Technical demonstration

Director Esko Herrala

Material research

SPECIM, Spectral Imaging Ltd.

Using Hyperspectral Imaging for Artifact Reseach (SPECIM, Spectral Imaging Ltd.)

a PowerPoint presentation by several experts

Hyperspectral imaging is used increasingly in many research areas, such as life sciences, vegetation research, forensics, food analysis, and mineral research. In each application area the hyperspectral scanner is used to to identify, measure and map the biological, chemical and physical properties of the objects depicted. Specim’s hyperspectral scanners are complete solutions for research applications. Within seconds they are able to visualize the biological, chemical, and physical properties of the samples and objects studied, whether an artifact or a living organism.

In the early 1990’s, thanks to more than 10 years of intensive scientific research done by the VTT Technical Research Centre, the SPECIM Founders designed the first professional hyperspectral spectrographs and imagers. These first commercially available spectrographs were developed in close collaboration with NASA to meet the requirements of the most advanced applications in remote sensing.

The session will include a presentation of the hyperspectral imaging solution by Specim and 2-3 cases where hyperspectral imaging was used as a research method for historical objects.

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