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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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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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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Wise old woman’s ointment: Highlights from the museum’s chemicals project

This summer and autumn, the Helsinki University Museum reviewed its fascinating collection of over 2,000 chemical substances, including drugs, samples, analysis series, teaching collections and dental fillings.

To celebrate the end of this review, nicknamed the Poison Project, the object of the month in November is the liniment known as ‘Wise old woman’s ointment’, which intrigued the museum staff participating in the project. We would like to remind all readers that the drugs and recipe mentioned in this text are historical, and we do not recommend that you prepare or use them at home.

An ointment for all ailments

Viisaan muijan voide, or Wise old woman’s ointment, is a liquid medicine brushed or rubbed on skin. Liniments have been used for various ailments, such as rheumatism, sprains and burns. They were manufactured in pharmacies or on commission.

A brown angular glass bottle.
Bottle of ‘Viisaan muijan voidetta’, with the contents listed on the back. Photos: Helsinki University Museum / Jenni Jormalainen.

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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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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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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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