A marble likeness of Porthan

Henrik Gabriel Porthan (1739–1804), librarian and professor of rhetoric and verse at the Royal Academy of Turku (the predecessor of the University of Helsinki), was a popular figure during the period of national awakening in 19th-century Finland. He is considered the father of Finnish historiography. The University of Helsinki’s Galleria Academica portrait collection contains a large number of sculptures, including a marble bust of Porthan wearing a wreath and a toga – our object of the month. The artist who created this work is Swedish-born Carl Eneas Sjöstrand (1828–1906). The sculpture is fairly heavy, coming in at 82.5 cm in height, and is accompanied by a mahogany pedestal measuring 151 cm.

The white bust of a man wearing a wreath and a robe, the top of which is visible. The sculpture stands on top of two wooden pallets of different sizes placed on a pallet stacker.
The marble bust of Porthan is currently kept in the University’s collection facility. Photo: Johannes Keltto, Helsinki University Museum.

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Dental panoramic radiography – A Finnish invention

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, Yrjö V. Paatero, Doctor of Dental Science, worked at the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Dentistry, overseeing X-ray examinations and diagnostics. He longed to do research work, but had little time for it because his days were filled with routine tasks. At the time, dental X-rays were taken by placing a film in the patient’s mouth time and again because several X-rays had to be taken to determine the condition of the entire dentition. Paatero was keen to find a less time-consuming solution, and the seed of the idea of panoramic radiography began to germinate. However, the road to this point had been far from simple, and several stumbling blocks still remained.

A woman sitting on a chair with a metal contraption encircling her head. On her right is an X-ray camera and on the left a man in a white coat is adjusting a curved X-ray film placed on a stand.
A pantomograph being used at the University of Helsinki’s Dental Clinic on Fabianinkatu street. Yrjö. V. Paatero on the left. The photo is from an article published in the Uusi Suomi newspaper in 1953. Photo: Yrjö V. Paatero Archives, privately owned.

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Farrier tools as a birthday present

This time, our object of the month is a farrier’s wooden toolbox, originally given as a present to Veterinary-Colonel Georg Öhman (1891–1957) in December 1941 – not for Christmas, but for his 50th birthday.

The first photo is of a flat wooden box with a metal plate on the lid bearing the names of the giver and recipient of the present. The second photo shows the box open, revealing farrier tools attached to the lid and bottom of the box with small wooden pegs.
The farrier’s toolbox is made of light-coloured lacquered wood. Each tool has its own, carefully sized place in the box. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Katariina Pehkonen.

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Eesti tudengite värvirikas teklitraditsioon

Tartu Ülikool saab 30. juunil 390-aastaseks. Tähtpäeva puhul on kuu eksponaadiks eestlaste esimese üliõpilasorganisatsiooni tekkel, aga juttu tuleb ka nõukogudeaegsest üliõpilasmütsist ja tudengite teklitraditsioonist laiemalt.

sinisest viltriidest valmistatud musta nokaga müts, mille alumises servas on must-valge triip ja lael valge rosett.
Helsingi ülikooli muuseumi kogudesse kuulub Eestis 1930ndatel õppinud vahetusüliõpilase tekkel. Musta nokaga müts on valmistatud sinisest viltriidest, selle alumises servas on must-valge triip ja lael valge rosett. Foto: Mai Joutselainen, Helsingi ülikooli muuseum.

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The colourful tradition of student caps in Estonia

In honour of the 390th anniversary of the University of Tartu on 30 June 2022, our object of the month is the cap of the first Estonian student organisation. We are also presenting a student cap from the Soviet era and the Estonian cap tradition more broadly.

A cap embroidered with a white star and made of blue felt fabric, with a black-and-white band round the edge and a black peak.
The collections of the Helsinki University Museum include a cap that originally belonged to a student who had gone on an exchange to Estonia in the 1930s. A cap embroidered with a white star and made of blue felt fabric, with a black-and-white band round the edge and a black peak. Photo: Mai Joutselainen, Helsinki University Museum.

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A memento of a ceremony for the learned

This spring, we will again celebrate holders of master’s and doctoral degrees in solemn conferment ceremonies organised by University of Helsinki faculties. Our University has a long history of conferment ceremonies: the first such ceremony took place at the Academy of Turku (now the University of Helsinki) as early as 1643. To celebrate the festivities this spring, our object of the month is one of the many mementoes of previous ceremonies in our collections, a picture of the participants in the conferment ceremony of the Faculty of Philosophy in 1894.

A framed picture with photos of many individuals glued on cardboard.

Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Anni Tuominen

Similar conferment pictures were customary from the late 19th century to the 1950s. The collections of the Helsinki University Museum include a total of eight such pictures, the oldest from 1890 and the most recent from 1957. Photos of graduands have also occasionally been compiled into an album, which has been presented as a commemorative gift to the official garland-weaver.

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C. L. Engel’s drawing of the University of Helsinki Main Building

In October 1827, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia ordered that the Imperial Academy of Turku be transferred to Helsinki, the new capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland. The fate of the Academy was sealed by the Great Fire of Turku in September 1827. It was decided that the new buildings constructed for the university in Helsinki would form part of the emerging city centre. The German architect Carl Ludvig Engel was tasked with designing the buildings.

Engel produced four series of drawings of the University’s Main Building, one of which is included in the collections of the Helsinki University Museum. A drawing of a longitudinal section and of the south façade demonstrates how some of the plans for this magnificent building came to fruition, but others were never realised.

A wash drawing of the façade, stairwell and ceremonial hall of a building, with handwritten text in Swedish and Russian.
Carl Ludvig Engel’s drawing (1828) of the University of Helsinki Main Building. The bottom left corner of the plan for the top floor shows the Senate’s chambers, which were destroyed in a bombing raid during the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union (1941–1944). The drawing has been signed not only by Engel, but also by his subordinate at the National Board of Public Building, the architect Anton Wilhelm Arppe. Photo: Helsinki University Museum

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Matilda Hjon – a strong-willed helper

The object of the month in March is a white, sprung rocking chair. The chair is lightly padded with a fabric that features big, bold flowers on a light brown background. Being a museum object, the chair cannot be sat on, but it seems comfortable and ergonomic even to modern eyes. The chair was used by deaconess Matilda Hjon (1877–1967), who was a brave and persistent organiser, humanitarian and director.

The turned rocking chair without rocker runners was used in the early part of the last century. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Jenni Jormalainen.

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Maya Vanni’s evening dress, or Sam Vanni’s painting in the craft science collection

The Helsinki University Museum’s craft science collection includes dozens of evening dresses, almost all of which are unique, bespoke gowns. However, one evening dress in the collection is a particular rarity: this silk dress has also served as a canvas for the noted Finnish artist Sam Vanni.

A translator in artistic circles

The dress was owned by Maya Vanni, originally Maja London (1916–2010). She was born in Turku and, after completing her matriculation examination, moved to Paris in 1935. She fit right in with the locals, studying, partying, conversing and becoming friends with artists. Her circle of friends included theatre director Vivica Bandler and artist and writer Tove Jansson.

A young woman with wavy hair and carefully shaped eyebrows is wearing a collared jacket as well as a scarf that covers her neck. Black and white photo.
Photograph of Maya Vanni in her credit book for the Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki. Photo: SLSA 1274, Maya Vanni archives, Society of Swedish Literature in Finland (SLS) archives

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