Investigating and Policing Antiquities Trafficking and Forgery in a Digital Age

Researchers at the University of Helsinki are involved with a workshop series funded by the Nordic Research Councils, titled Changing Hands, Changing Meanings: Researching Cultural Heritage Trafficking in the Nordic Region. 

The first of these workshops, focusing on the impact of digitization on both research of the illicit antiquities trade, and also the process of illicit trade itself, took place at Stockholm University and featured an impressive lineup of specialists, researchers and practitioners from the Nordic region, North America and Australia.

Although some of the issues discussed were too sensitive to share over social media, it is possible to capture much of the debate, bother during and since the workshop, by following the #kulturkrim hashtag on Twitter.

Group photo
Some of the participants at the Stockholm University workshop

The workshop organizers come from Stockholm University, University of Turku, University of Agder and University of Oslo in addition to the University of Helsinki. The next workshops of the series, both scheduled for 2020, will take place at University of Agder in Norway, and the University of Helsinki.

One-off course running in May – Archaeological Heritage Management: Global and Local Perspectives

In this one-off course, for University of Helsinki students enrolled in the KUMA programme, for exchange students and for students through the Open University, students will become familiarized with some of the key issues that archaeological heritage management management practitioners have to consider in their everyday work. The course code-shares with Cultural Heritage Studies and Archaeology, through the codes KUMA-KP505 and KUMA-AR311. Many of the course’s lectures and seminars will be led by Dr George Smith who will be visiting the University of Helsinki from the USA through the Fulbright Specialist Program.

George Smith

The learning goals are as follow:

– To assess critically the multiple considerations and needs that affect decisions about archaeological and cultural heritage management

– To become familiar with international case studies and perspectives, and their impact on the development of archaeological heritage management as an applied discipline

– To develop the tools needed to create an effective means of evaluating heritage impact.

Dr. George S. Smith, Florida State University, is an archaeologist specializing in public archaeology and cultural heritage management. He was Associate Director at the Southeast Archeological Center, worked for the Archeological Assistance Division of the National Park Service, was a Research Associate in Archaeology and Curator of Archaeology (Acting) at the University of Alaska Museum, and was an archaeologist with the Cooperative Park Studies Unit, Anthropology and Historic Preservation at the University of Alaska.

He has worked with universities in the United States, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and China with respect to archaeology and heritage. AMong many workshops and training that he has organized or been involved with, he worked with a consortium through Indiana University to provide cultural heritage management training in Kyrgyzstan. He was a member of US/ICOMOS serving as an expert member on the International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management and was an associate scholar with the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage: Theory, Practice, Policy, and Ethics project at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He was co-editor for the Cultural Heritage Management section of the Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. 


Yu, Pei-Lin, Chen Shen and George S. Smith (eds). 2018 Relevance and Application of Heritage in Contemporary Society. Routledge, New York.

Messenger, Phyllis Mauch and George S. Smith (eds.) 2010 Cultural Heritage Management: A Global Perspective.  University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Smith, George S., Phyllis Mauch. Messenger, and Hilary A. Soderland (eds.) 2010  Heritage Values in Contemporary Society. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California.

Bender, Susan J. and George S. Smith (eds.) 2000 Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century.  Special Report, Society for American Archaeology. Washington DC.

Smith, George S. and John E. Ehrenhard (eds.) 1991 Protecting the Past.  CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Finnish Cultural Foundation gives grant to doctoral student Oona Simolin

By Oona Simolin, Department of Cultures

In the end of January, I got to know that I will receive a one-year grant for my doctoral research from the Finnish Cultural Foundation central fund. The foundation receives thousands of high-quality applications, so I am honoured to receive funding for my PhD.

Oona Simolin

My grant period starts in March 2019 and lasts for 12 months. In my PhD project, I am interested in guided tours organised in three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In other words, I am interested in the heritage interpretation delivered in these sites. Narration, stories and history, communicational methods and interaction create a set of emotional, educational and experiential elements that ultimately form the heritage experience. My main questions are: What kind of emotions, meanings and interpretations do guided tours suggest to the participants? How do the participants actually feel during and after the tour, and how do they understand the significance of the site?

To find answers, I have already collected some materials in Suomenlinna Fortress. During spring 2019, you will find me observing even more guided tours and interviewing tour participants. To capture different sides of the tours, my materials include also photos and location data. Finishing the article on Suomenlinna is my first big milestone this year, but I will also move on to my next research site, Tallinn Old Town. I am really looking forward how the Northern European history is told on the other side of the bay!

After quite many grant applications, I am thrilled to focus only on heritage research for some time. I also hope that each grant is a sign that heritage studies is becoming more recognized and that even more heritage researchers are lucky to find funding in the future.

EXHIBITION: Objects of Attention. Experiments with Knowledge in the State Museum

The Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design opens the 2019 programme with the exhibition “Objects of Attention”, curated by anthropologist Francisco Martínez. 

In this exhibition, ordinary things are revised into objects of attention. Ten artists have been invited to reflect on the capacity of artefacts to spark political concern and raise awareness of actual social challenges. Through the engagement of these artists with and through the expressive (material, design, functional, indexical) potential of things, everyday items have been transformed into devices for thinking about the contemporary — through topics such as migration, gender, environmental sustainability, digital rubbish, obsession with changes, and the role of humans in an automated world. The project is intended to transgress conventional ways of making, analysing, and representing things, exploring alternatives ways of producing knowledge. Also, it contributes to debates about the relationship of an artwork to its society, matters of aura and intentionality, the intrinsic properties of artefacts, as well as exploring the intersections from which the dialogue between contemporary art, anthropology, design, and museum studies can be brought forward. 


Francisco Martínez is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki and part of the editorial team of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures. In 2018, he was awarded with the Early Career Prize of the European Association of Social Anthropology for his book Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia. Martinez’ reflection upon material culture and his way of combining contemporary art and anthropology are intriguing for the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, and significantly open the scope and practice in the field. 


Artists: Jussi Kivi, Laura Kuusk, Nino Kvrivishvili, Camille Laurelli, Eleonore de Montesquiou, Eva Mustonen, Emeli Theander, Timo Toots, Kirill Tulin, and Varvara & Mar 

Graphic Designer: Ott Kagovere 

Architecture Designer: Hannes Praks  

The exhibition is open: 12.01-17.03.2019 

Public Programme of the exhibition: “Experiments with Knowledge” 

The public programme includes a performance at the opening of the exhibition; a research seminar with lectures and artists talks; two workshops and several guided tours in English and Estonian. A key proposition behind “Experiments with Knowledge” is that museums can be thought as places where things can happen and different participants can share experimental ways to connect their capacities together. In this light, the diverse events scheduled are not organised to know more, but to know differently and access to alternative forms of knowledge.  

12.01.2019 Research Seminar 

Moderator: Francisco Martínez 

Participants: Eeva Berglund, Derek Holzer, Roomet Jakapi, Ott Kagovere, Jussi Kivi, Mihkel Kleis, Nino Kvrivishvili, Laura Kuusk, Camille Laurelli, Patrick Laviolette, Eleonor de Montesquiou, Eva Mustonen, Hannes Praks, Kirill Tulin, Timo Toots, Varvara & Mar 

Practical workshops: 

Saturday, 19 of January: Timo Toots / working with floppy disks. 

Saturday, 16 of February: Varvara Guljajeva (from artist duo Varvara & Mar) / working with data cans. 

Guided tours: Two tours by the curator in English (19 January and 16 of March) and in Estonian (16 February). 


The exhibition is supported by: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Finnish Institute in Estonia and the University of Helsinki 


New publications from Cultural Heritage Studies

New peer reviewed articles have recently been published featuring researchers from Cultural Heritage Studies at the University of Helsinki.

In “Asset, Burden, Cultybraggan. Community Site Ownership in a Scottish Village“, Suzie Thomas and Iain Banks (University of Glasgow) write about their ethnographic and public archaeology research at a former Prisoner of War camp in central Scotland and discuss the challenges faced by the local village, who just over a decade ago elected to buy the site from the UK Ministry of Defense. The article is open access.

Fool’s Gold? A critical assessment of sources of data on heritage crime” by Louise Grove (Loughborough University), Suzie Thomas and Adam Daubney (Portable Antiquities Scheme and Lincolnshire County Council) is a conceptual paper discussing the limitations and opportunities for current heritage crime research in the UK based on the data available. They consider among other things the idea of the so-called ‘dark figure’ in crime (the crimes that take place but go unreported and hence unknown), and how this concept may affect what we know about heritage crime.

Full references:

Grove, Louise, Suzie Thomas, and Adam Daubney. 2018. “Fool’s gold? A critical assessment of sources of data on heritage crime.” Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal (online first)
Thomas, Suzie, and Iain Banks. 2018. “Asset, burden, Cultybraggan. Community site ownership in a Scottish village.” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage (online first)

Cultural Heritage research from Helsinki discussed recently with UK doctoral researchers

Falmouth harbour – chilly in November but still beautiful.

On Friday 23 November Suzie Thomas spoke as Keynote at a residential weekend for doctoral researchers from Falmouth University, the University of Plymouth and the University of Western England.

The weekend, for 3D3 researchers (coming from various arts and heritage backgrounds and using a vast range of digital, creative and participatory approaches in their research and practices) funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, was an opening event for recently started researchers on the programme. It took place at the Penryn campus of Falmouth University in Cornwall, England.

Thomas talked about Lapland’s Dark Heritage, a recently completed Academy of Finland collaboration between the University of Helsinki and University of Oulu. The project drew on a number of theories and methodological approaches that spanned many disciplines including archaeology, ethnology, cultural heritage studies, crowdsourcing methods and community engagement.

The weekend went very well, and there are hopes that the 3D3 students and their supervisors can visit Finland in the future!

NOS-HS Workshop grant awarded to Cultural Heritage and Cultural Property researchers in the Nordics

A research team comprised of Nordic-based have been awarded a workshop grant from NOS-HS (The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences) to organize a series of three workshops on the theme of “Changing Hands, Changed Concerns: Research on Illegal Trade in Cultural Heritage in the Nordic Region” (in Swedish: kiftande Händer, Förändrade Betydelser: Forskning om Illegal Handel med Kulturarv i Norden).  As reported on the Working with Cultural Objects and Manuscripts blog, it will fund three workshops over two years in Stockholm, Oslo/Kristiansand and Helsinki, bringing together scholars and practitioners from the Nordic region and beyond.

Figure from Palmyra in the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, wearing a black ribbon in mourning of recent events. Phpto by Suzie Thomas.

In the organizing team are Dr. Damien Huffer (Stockholm University), Prof. Suzie Thomas (University of Helsinki), Dr. Rick Bonnie (University of Helsinki), Prof. Visa Immonen (University of Turku) and Dr. Josephine Munch Rasmussen (Universities of Agder and Oslo).

Perinnöntutkimuksen käsitteistöä määritellään Tieteen termipankissa

Helsingin yliopistossa koordinoitava Tieteen termipankki on kaikkien Suomessa harjoitettavien tieteenalojen yhteinen verkossa toimiva, avoin ja jatkuvasti päivittyvä termitietokanta sekä wikipohjainen yhteistyön alusta. Termipankin sisältö karttuu rajoitetun talkoistamisen periaatteella. Tämä tarkoittaa sitä, että termisivuja pääsevät lisäämään ja muokkaamaan ainoastaan asiantuntijat – toisin kuin Wikipediassa. Termipankki tarjoaa kuitenkin myös alustan termeistä käytäville keskusteluille, joihin voivat osallistua kaikki termipankkiin omalla nimellään rekisteröityneet käyttäjät.

Termi ymmärretään termipankissa käsitteen ja sen nimityksen yhdistelmäksi, mitä ajatusta seuraten termipankki rakentuu keskenään linkittyvien käsite- ja nimityssivujen verkostoksi. Termipankissa on tällä hetkellä mukana noin 40 aihealuetta eli tieteenalaa tai erityisalaa ja yhteensä 40 000 käsitesivua. Uusimpina tulokkaina termipankissa ovat vuonna 2018 aloittaneet geologia, taidehistoria, historia ja perinnöntutkimus (engl. heritage studies).

Perinnöntutkimuksen käsitteistöä kokoava asiantuntijaryhmä on järjestäytymässä, ja keskeisimpienkin käsitteiden määrittely on vasta aluillaan. Keskusteltavaa on riittänyt aihealueen nimeämisestä lähtien, eikä itse perinnön käsitteelle ole vielä muodostettu tyydyttävää määritelmää. Aihealueen nimessä päätettiin siis käyttää suomen kielen sanaa perintö (sanan kulttuuriperintö sijaan), vaikka alan opetusta tarjoavat suomalaiset yliopistot puhuvat johdonmukaisesti “kulttuuriperinnön tutkimuksesta”.

Sanavalinnan tarkoituksena on erottaa tutkimuksen ja tieteellisen intressin kohteena oleva laajempi ilmiö ja yläkäsite alakäsitteestään eli kansainvälisen ja kansallisen kulttuuriperintöhallinnon määrittelemästä ja suojelemasta kulttuuriperinnöstä. Lisäksi haluttiin luoda suomenkielistä termistöä, joka on yhdenmukaista englanninkielisessä tutkimuskirjallisuudessa käytetyn käsitteistön kanssa.

Termit ovat ajattelun välineitä ja siten tutkijan tärkeimpiä työkaluja. Kuva: Johanna Enqvist.

Perinnöntutkimusta voi luonnehtia tieteidenväliseksi kulttuurintutkimukseksi, joka ammentaa käsitteistöään sekä humanistisista että yhteiskuntatieteistä. Perinnöntutkimuksen voi ymmärtää myös näkökulmaksi, joka on pirstoutunut menneisyyttä sekä menneisyydelle annettuja merkityksiä tarkasteleville aloille, kuten arkeologiaan, historiaan, taidehistoriaan, kansatieteeseen, folkloristiikkaan ja kulttuuriantropologiaan. Perinnöntutkimuksen termityötä on luontevaa tehdä näitä aloja, erilaisia tutkimusperinteitä ja käsitteistämisen tapoja edustavien asiantuntijoiden yhteistyönä.

Kulttuuriperinnön käsitteen ohella “perinnön” määritelmää on jatkossa analysoitava esimerkiksi suhteessa kulttuurin ja perinteen käsitteisiin. Lähtökohtia ja tukea käsiteanalyysille löytyy muun muassa folkloristien Oona E. Simolinin (Päivystävä folkloristi -blogi 19.10.2018), Anne Heimon (Vähäisiä lisiä -blogi 2.2.2018) ja Pertti Anttosen (Elore 1/2009) pohdinnoista.

Kulttuuriperintö” sekä “perinne” on Tieteen termipankissa jo määritelty folkloristiikan aihealueella, mutta ainakin kulttuuriperintö saa oman käsitesivunsa myös osana perinnöntutkimuksen käsitejärjestelmää. Historioitsijoiden kanssa on puolestaan pohdittava esimerkiksi kollektiivisen muistin, historiatietoisuuden ja historiakulttuurin käsitteiden kytköksiä perinnöntutkimuksen avainkäsitteisiin.

Tiede on monikielistä, mutta omakielisten käsitteiden merkitys korostuu kulttuuria ja yhteiskuntaa tutkivilla aloilla. Perinnöntutkimuksen suomenkielistä terminologiaa kehittävät tutkijat ovat osaltaan varmistamassa, että Kulttuuriperintöbarometrissä suomalaisten arvostamana kulttuuriperintönä esiin noussut “kieli” säilyy jatkossakin elinvoimaisena.

Perinnöntutkimuksen asiantuntijaryhmään voivat liittyä kaikki perinnöntutkijoiksi itsensä identifioivat tutkijat ja tutkijakoulutettavat. Tervetuloa mukaan!

FT Johanna Enqvist on Tieteen termipankin tutkimuskoordinaattori sekä termityöläinen perinnöntutkimuksen ja arkeologian aihealueilla.

Wednesday 7 November: Corporate Social Responsibility and Museums: heritage ethics in the age of neoliberalism?

On Wednesday 7th November we are very happy to be hosting a public lecture Associate Professor Gertjan Plets, of the University of Utrecht.

Dr Plets will talk on the theme “Corporate Social Responsibility and Museums: heritage ethics in the age of neoliberalism?”, with the following abstract:

Heritage and archaeology are often theorised as the projects of nationalism; discourses about the past are textured by identity politics and archaeological projects are intricately structured by institutional frameworks and funding schemes. As a result, the ethical frameworks we employ to critically evaluate the politicisation of our practice is heavily influenced by this historic focus on the political influence of the nation state. However, states are not the only players that use culture and heritage to normalise certain political hierarchies or imbue certain norms with new cultural meaning. Drawing on examples from Russia and the Netherlands this paper will investigate how corporate funding of heritage sites and archaeological excavations influences archaeological practices and drastically alters power relations on the ground. This paper will encourage archaeologists to take Corporate Social Responsibility strategies serious and expand their ethical toolkit beyond the nation state.

Join us for this public lecture on Wednesday 7.11. at 16:15-17:45 in Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40), Sali 4, University of Helsinki. No pre-booking required!

Pumpjack in the Dutch national open air museum

New Open Access book: “Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia” — Awarded with the EASA Early Career Prize

The book ‘Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia. An Anthropology of Forgetting, Repair and Urban Traces’ has been published by UCL Press. Also, it has received the Early Career Award by the European Association of Social Anthropology in the category of Best Monograph.


What happens to legacies that do not find any continuation? The author brings together a number of sites of interest to explore the vanquishing of the Soviet legacy in Estonia. The anthropological study of all these places shows that national identity and historical representations can be constructed in relation to waste and disrepair too, demonstrating also how we can understand generational change in a material sense.


By adopting the tropes of “repair” and “waste”, this book innovatively manages to link various material registers from architecture, intergenerational relations, affect, museums with ways of making the past present.
Victor Buchli, Professor of Material Culture, UCL

This book comprises an endearingly transdisciplinary ethnography of post-socialist material culture and social change in Estonia. It defies disciplinary boundaries and shows how an attention to material relations and affective infrastructures might reinvigorate political theory.
Maria Mälksoo, Senior Lecturer, Brussels School of International Studies of the University of Kent


Francisco jointed the University of Helsinki in May 2018; since then he has published three articles: ‘Doing nothing: Anthropology sits at the same table with contemporary art in Lisbon and Tbilisi’ (Ethnography) ‘Analogue Photo Booths in Berlin. A stage, a trap, a condenser and four shots for kissing the person you love’ (Anthropology and Photography); and ‘The Serendipity of Anthropological Practice’ (Anthropological Journal of European Cultures).
Also, Francisco has edited two books that will be published within the next months: ‘Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough: Ethnographic Responses’ (Berghahn); ‘Common Grounds? Locating, Contesting and (Not) Defining European Anthropology’ (Berghahn). Currently, he is curating the exhibition ‘Objects of Attention’ at the Estonian Museum of Applied Arts and Design.