A handsome young man with curly hair stands in a corridor on the fourth floor of the University of Helsinki Main Building. He is naked and leaning his weight on one of his legs. His eyes are downcast and his expression is sombre and slightly melancholy. Is he Antinous?
The collections of the Helsinki University Museum include eight gas masks, of which seven are from the 1930s and intended for the civilian population. The University Museum has received the masks from hospitals and University of Helsinki departments. The collections also include an equine gas mask dating back to the 1930s or 1940s which is of an unknown origin.
In 2015 we made plans to place one of the civilian gas masks on display in the University Museum’s new main exhibition, The Power of Thought. However, we had to scrap these plans at the last minute when we discovered that the filters of old gas masks may contain asbestos.
In spring 2020 we decided to find out whether these suspicions were true. In this blog post, we explain how we investigated the matter and what we eventually found out.