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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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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Sister Hippolyta’s legacy


A wax model attached to a black-painted wooden board, around which a white, folded fabric has been attached with needles. The wax model depicts the lower part of a patient’s face, particularly the mouth, with the top lip swollen.
A medical moulage depicting a syphilitic lesion on the top lip of a patient. The wax model was created by Sister Hippolyta. Beneath the wooden base of the moulage is a label with the printed text ‘Universitätsklinik für Hautkrankheiten Cöln Lindenburg’ and the hand-written diagnosis ‘Syphilis I. Primäraffekt der Oberlippe’. The wooden base is signed by the artist: ‘Sch. Hippolyta Aug.’. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Sanna-Mari Niemi.

Stadin AO, the Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute, donated nine wax models, or moulages, to the Helsinki University Museum in 2013. Initially, no background information on the items was available, but the labels and signatures made it possible to deduce that the objects had been made by Sister Hippolyta and that they originated in Cologne, Germany. Using these snippets of information, it was possible to begin the detective work whose results I am presenting in this blog post.

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Tower of the Winds from Sederholm’s scale model collection

At a time when long-distance travel was rare, faraway regions could be brought to people through the means of art and, later, photography. One way to examine culture and architecture was by studying scale models. They also afforded an opportunity to look into the past, especially in the case of historical locations that had not survived for posterity. As our object of the month for October, we present a scale model of the classical era Tower of the Winds from the Sederholm collection I catalogued last spring.

The scale model of the Tower of the Winds is light grey, octagonal building with red roof.
The scale model of the Tower of the Winds is 26 cm high. The weather vane in the shape of the god Triton that once adorned the rooftop has disappeared. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Anna Luhtala.

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