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.

Continue reading “Written on parchment”

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.

Continue reading “A chair inspired by an ancient Roman symbol of power”

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.

Continue reading “A symbol of science”

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.

Continue reading “A.W. Ingman, pioneering advocate of Finnish”

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.

Continue reading “The letter of the law”

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.

Continue reading “Snapshots from the Children’s Castle”

Heaven on Earth: The meteorite at Helsinki Observatory

Old objects are usually not to be touched in exhibitions, but the meteorite at Helsinki Observatory is an exception to the rule. Despite being far older than any other object at the Observatory, the public are expressly invited to touch it. To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Observatory’s permanent exhibition, our object of the month in October is the meteorite at Helsinki Observatory.

A shiny metallic meteorite resting on a blue table. A hand emerging from the top right corner of the photo touches the meteorite with one finger.
Please touch! Photo: Paula Kyyrö / Helsinki University Museum.

Continue reading “Heaven on Earth: The meteorite at Helsinki Observatory”

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.

Continue reading “Farrier tools as a birthday present”

A doctor and the grand duchess’s Easter egg

Easter greetings from the Helsinki University Museum! Our object of the month in April is a red Easter egg that is more than 100 years old. The egg used to belong to Eero Loimaranta, a Finnish medical doctor, who is said to have received it as a gift from Grand Duchess Maria of Russia during the First World War. The porcelain egg is 10 centimetres high. It has holes on the top and bottom of the shell, perhaps for hanging the egg on a string. The smooth porcelain surface is decorated with the Cyrillic characters X and B, or H and V when translated into the Latin alphabet. The egg came into the Helsinki University Museum’s possession as part of the collections of the museum of medical history.

A photograph of a red Easter egg on a white background.
A red Easter egg from the First World War period. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Katariina Pehkonen.

Continue reading “A doctor and the grand duchess’s Easter egg”