Written on parchment

One of the unique objects in our museum collection is a document written in beautiful, elaborate handwriting, at the bottom of which are signatures and a large red wax seal attached with a string. The words Christina, Gud (‘God’) and Sverige (‘Sweden’) stand out on the first line. The document is the charter of the Royal Academy of Turku, written on parchment and dated 26 March 1640. This date is considered the anniversary and date of establishment of the current University of Helsinki.

In autumn 1827, soon after the Great Fire of Turku, Nicholas I of Russia decided to move the Academy to Helsinki, which had become the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland 15 years earlier. Also transferred from Turku to Helsinki were the charter, folded in a silver box, and other objects that had survived the fire.

A framed letter written in elaborate handwriting, with a round red wax seal at the bottom. The letter is surrounded by light-coloured matting and a pale, narrow and smooth wooden frame.
The University of Helsinki charter in its new matting and frame from 2015. Photo: Timo Huvilinna, Helsinki University Museum Flame.

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A chair inspired by an ancient Roman symbol of power

In the University of Helsinki Main Building, students hurry to class through a lobby dominated by imposing columns and elegant U-shaped chairs. Made of black saddle leather and wrought iron, these neoclassical chairs are modelled on the curule seat used by the ancient Romans to denote political or military power. The chairs can be found in the Main Building extension at Fabianinkatu 33, colloquially called the ‘new side’, which was designed by architect J. S. Sirén and completed in 1937.

A photo of a U-shaped chair with a black leather seat and a wrought-iron frame.
These neoclassical chairs, representing the high-end furniture of the time, featured motifs from ancient Egypt, including decorative lotus-shaped knobs, a round rosette and lion’s paw feet. Photo: Mikael Lindén / Helsinki University Museum Flame.

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A symbol of science

A female figure cast in plaster stands engrossed in the book she is holding in her left hand. In her right hand she has a pen for taking notes. The other side of her draped garment has fallen down her shoulder. Her hair has been curled at the front and tied up at the neck. Our object of the month is a sculpture known by its German title Wissenschaft (‘Science’). It depicts a woman standing in the contrapposto pose on a plinth, much like an ancient goddess.

Alexander Tondeur: Wissenschaft, late 19th century. The sculpture was displayed on the third floor of the A white sculpture of a female figure on a low round plinth.
University of Helsinki Main Building on Fabianinkatu street from 2015 to 2021. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Timo Huvilinna.

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Measurements offer valuable insight into forests

Scientists measure natural phenomena and collect samples and specimens using various devices, instruments and containers. To celebrate the approach of summer, our object of the month is a measuring container used in forest research: a cuvette developed by a village blacksmith in Juupajoki in southern Finland.

A plastic transparent research container, composed of two parts, fixed on an iron stand.
A cuvette used in forest research in the 1970s. Photo: Sini Oksanen.

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The garland-weaver of the 1914 conferment ceremony

In May, the University of Helsinki is again organising several conferment ceremonies. To mark the occasion, our object of the month is the conferment outfit of the official garland-weaver of 1914.

A studio portrait of a young woman sitting sideways turned slightly towards the camera but looking past it. She is holding a laurel garland and wearing a light-coloured outfit, with garland embroidery on the collar, cuffs and side.
Margareta von Bonsdorff, garland-weaver at the 1914 conferment festivities, dressed in an outfit made for the event. Photo: Helsinki University Museum/Carl Klein, Atelier Universal.

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A.W. Ingman, pioneering advocate of Finnish

Our object of the month is a portrait of Professor Anders Wilhelm Ingman by the German-born portraitist Bernhard Reinhold. A.W. Ingman (1819–1877) was Professor of Biblical Studies at the Imperial Alexander University from 1864 to 1877. He was not just a clergyman and theologian, but also a passionate advocate of the Finnish language. His skills in Finnish exceeded those of most of his colleagues at the University, and he was the first theology professor to lecture in Finnish at a time when Swedish remained the official language of teaching.

An oval-shaped half-length portrait, in a gold-coloured frame, of a man turned slightly to the right. The man is bald on top, with brown hair at the side extending over his ear. He is wearing a white shirt, a black jacket and a black bow tie.
Portrait of A.W. Ingman by the German artist Bernhard Reinhold from 1878. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Timo Huvilinna.

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The letter of the law

The ballpoint pen replaced the refillable fountain pen in popular use in the 1960s. Since then, many accessories for fountain pens, such as ink bottles, cartridges and blotters, have largely vanished from desks and offices, and fountain pens have become collector’s items. Our object of the month, a wooden ink blotter, dates back to a period when fountain pens were still widely used. Its original owner was President and Professor Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg.

A wooden ink blotter. The round handle is secured to a flat lid. Underneath the lid is a curved base to which blotting paper has been attached.
K.J. Ståhlberg’s ink blotter. Photo: Helsinki University Museum.

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Beautiful birds from Karelia

Our object of the month in February is an embroidered piece of cloth from Eastern Karelia, brought over by Aino Ollila during the Continuation War between the Soviet Union and Finland (1941–44). Ollila was a craft teacher and member of the auxiliary paramilitary Lotta Svärd organisation for women, and this piece of cloth is part of a collection of Karelian embroidery samples. The object is a white linen cloth embroidered with a stylised bird in red thread and a folded and sewn hem at the bottom. On the right is the selvedge, the bound side edge of the fabric. The top and left edges have been cut with scissors. The embroidery threads have snapped at the left edge, which indicates that the embroidery was originally wider and the piece has been part of a larger cloth, possibly a rushnyk (in Finnish käspaikka), a long, narrow cloth common in the Karelian and Eastern Orthodox cultures. Although that is just about all we know about this particular piece, it can still tell us quite a bit about Finnish history.

A rectangular piece of cloth with a stylised tree embroidered in red at both ends and, in the centre, a bird looking to the left depicted from the side.
: A piece of cloth embroidered with a bird motif, possibly one end of a rushnyk. Photo: Anni Tuominen/Helsinki University Museum

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A life-saving soda bottle

This time our object of the month is a soda bottle. It has never contained a beverage, however. It has been used to store and transport blood for transfusions. In addition to a flip-top bottle, the set includes a needle, a rubber bulb syringe, and a metal cannula that branches into two detachable rubber tubes. Unfortunately, as is often the case with old objects, the rubber parts are perished and in quite bad condition.

Blood transfusion apparatus: the bottle and the rubber components. Photo: Helsinki University Museum, Katariina Pehkonen.

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Snapshots from the Children’s Castle

“A love of flowers and children was one of Sophie Mannerheim’s defining features,” writes Tyyni Tuulio in a biography of Mannerheim. Upon her 60th birthday, Mannerheim received a photo album as a gift from the Children’s Castle hospital she had established. Enclosed within the album’s brown leather covers are 26 black-and-white photos of the old Children’s Castle and its patients and staff. This photo album is our object of the month.

A brown photo album with a dedication inscribed on the cover in gilt letters.
Sophie Mannerheim received the album as a gift on her 60th birthday. Photo: Helsinki University Museum.

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