DL 15 October 2017!

Object Biographies

II International Artefacta Conference

2–3 March 2018

House of Science and Letters

Helsinki, Finland

Artefacta, the Finnish Network for Artefact Studies

in collaboration with the Finnish Antiquarian Society and

Nordic Association of Conservators in Finland

Where does the thing come from and who made it? What has been its career so far, and what do people consider to be an ideal career for such things? What are the recognized "ages" or periods in the thing's "life", and what are the cultural markers for them? How does the thing's use change with its age, and what happens to it when it reaches the end of its usefulness?

(Igor Kopytoff: 'The Cultural Biography of Things', 1986)

We would like to thank all those who have already submitted a proposal – we have received nearly 50 proposals – but there is still room for more.

We are pleased to announce that we are accepting proposals for presentations for our second international conference. Object biographies have been understood in both highly concrete terms as the history of relocating artefacts and retracing their physical changes and as abstract models or metaphors for outlining relationships between people and their environment.

When considering objects and material culture, object biography or life-span has become a concept encompassing a broad, multidisciplinary and diffuse field of research. The history, evolution and uses of this term have varied and have been of wide scope. The term has come to bridge various disciplines including anthropology, archaeology, art history, conservation studies, craft studies, ethnology, history, museology, the natural sciences and sociology.

We welcome all experts who work with objects and cultural heritage collections – researchers, curators, conservators and conservation scientists – to present and discuss the various meanings of object biographies. The aim is to provide a cross-section of current research and its results and an overview of the present and future directions of research in this field.

Keynote speakers

Claire Farago, Professor of Art History, University of Colorado Boulder, United States

Karin Margarita Frei, Research Professor in Archaeometry, National Museum of Denmark

Eero Hyvönen, Director of Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities (Heldig), Finland


The conference seeks recent advances and innovations in the field of object biographies, for example:

  • Case studies, overviews of the state of research and theoretical surveys
  • The numerous methods with which the biographies of objects can be reconstructed and theories for analysing life-spans and materiality
  • Research on conservation treatments and material/conservation science
  • Collaboration projects between researchers, curators, conservators or conservation scientists
  • How objects during the latter part of their life-span can cause health and safety issues particularly in museums and how organisations have found solutions to overcome these problems


The form of presentation may be a PowerPoint presentation by one or several experts, or an interview, poster or panel discussion. Please articulate clearly on your abstract the form of your presentation.

Length of the proposal for a presentation: max. 1 page

Please notice that the deadline for submissions has been extended to 15 October 2017.

Acceptance of proposals: 1 November 2017


The presentations will be organised into sessions by the conference committee. The sessions will be arranged thematically instead of according to traditional divisions between disciplines. The goal is to enhance interdisciplinary dialogue.


Please use the online proposal submission system available below.

Only proposals submitted online will be considered.


The conference fee is €50.

20 minutes is reserved for each presentation + 10 minutes for discussion.
NB! Accepted proposals will be published on this site.

Please send any inquiries via email to

Dr Alex Snellman

Coordinator of the Artefacta Network

Conference committee

Renja Suominen-Kokkonen, Artefacta Network (chair)

Aki Arponen, Artefacta Network

Päivi Fernström, Artefacta Network

Helena Lonkila, Nordic Association of Conservators in Finland

Nina Robbins, Nordic Association of Conservators in Finland

Alex Snellman, Artefacta Network

Marleena Vihakara, Nordic Association of Conservators in Finland

Board of the Artefacta Network

Docent, Dr Renja Suominen-Kokkonen, art history, Senior Lecturer, University of Helsinki (chair)

Dr Elina Anttila, art history, Director General of the National Museum of Finland

Conservator Aki Arponen, conservation, National Museum of Finland

Dr Päivi Fernström, craft studies, University Lecturer, University of Helsinki

Niklas Huldén, ethnology, Åbo Akademi University

Professor Paula Hohti, art and culture history, Aalto University

Professor Visa Immonen, cultural heritage studies, University of Helsinki

Professor Mika Lavento, archaeology, University of Helsinki

Docent, Dr Ildikó Lehtinen, ethnology, University of Helsinki

Dr Tiina Männistö-Funk, history, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

Docent, Dr Minna Sarantola-Weiss, history, Head of Research, Helsinki City Museum

See the programme of the I International Artefacta Conference (2014) here...

artefacta en

Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistys

Finnish Antiquarian Society


Nordic Association of Conservators in Finland


Federation of Finnish Learned Societies

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