Not a pocket calculator

Our object of the month is an arithmometer, or a calculator, which dates back to the 1880s. The metal device included in the Observatory’s collections has a 16-digit row displaying the results of calculations. The lever in the middle of the device is used to select the current operation, and the values to be calculated are entered using eight vertical input sliders. Each slider goes from zero to nine, with a crank handle on the right-hand side to confirm the values given.

A metal calculator in a wooden box.
An arithmometer from the 1880s. The object is 10 cm in height, 59.2 cm in length and 19.3 cm in width. Image: Timo Huvilinna, Helsinki University Museum Flame.

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Unto Uolevi and the creative process

A soft toy called Unto Uolevi was acquired for the collections of Helsinki University Museum Flame from the discipline of craft teacher training at the Faculty of Educational Sciences. This soft toy has its origins in a drawing by a daycare-aged child. The toy was created in 2012 on a course on the basics of craft science given by Professor Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen and University Lecturer Henna Lahti. Some of the students participated in a project where the process of craft design was investigated through the creation of stuffed toys. The different stages of Unto Uolevi were recorded in the museum collections: the drawing, a prototype, a trial run and the final version.

A standing, striped light-beige and white soft toy with ears at the top and a black cap on the head.
Completed Unto Uolevi toy. Photo: Helsinki University Museum Flame/Maria Tukia.

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Edison’s talking machine

In the 19th century, the ideology of nationalism spread across Europe, taking hold in Finland too. During this time of national awakening, researchers and artists began to seek the material and immaterial roots of Finnish identity. The study of Finnish and Finno-Ugric languages was deemed important. Oral cultural traditions were preserved using an early recording device called a phonograph.

: A metal device with a cylinder and a crank, on a wooden base. Next to the device is a brown wax cylinder and, in the background, the wooden lid of the device, with a metal handle.
Photo: Timo Huvilinna.

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Hormonal coil – Towards safe contraception

One of the display cases in our new core exhibition Passion for Knowledge, which opened on 10 October 2023, is dedicated to a fundamental area of human rights: sexual and reproductive rights and health.  Accordingly, we have chosen as our object of the month for October a hormonal coil developed at the University of Helsinki.

The photo shows a small square display case, with a raspberry-red interior and a glass front, that contains various contraceptives and maternity package objects, placed on three different levels.
A display case dedicated to sexual and reproductive rights and health, with a coil suspended and illuminated on the top right. Photo: Helena Hämäläinen / Helsinki University Museum Flame.

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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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