Author Archives: Suzie Thomas

About Suzie Thomas

University Lecturer in Museology. Interested in community engagement, alternative and outsider approaches to the past, museum security, and dark heritage.

Happy New Year / Hyvää uutta vuotta, from us to you!

We in the Lapland’s Dark Heritage team are looking forward to more research, more cooperation with our colleagues and friends in Finland and beyond, and more dissemination of our results in 2017. We also have some new adventures to look forward to:

As noted already, #InariDig2 received a grant from the University of Helsinki’s Future Fund, meaning we can return to Lapland next summer for more public archaeology.

Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto recently received a personal grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation (Suomen Kulttuurirahasto), meaning that she can continue to do research related to the project, and will be based at the University of Jyväskylä, working with the rest of the Lapland’s Dark Heritage collective until October 2017.

We also had some wonderful news from Royal Society of Edinburgh. Both Suzie Thomas and our colleague Iain Banks of the University of Glasgow received Caledonian Research Fund/Royal Society of Edinburgh (CRF/RSE) European Visiting Research Fellowships for 2017. This means that Suzie will visit Scotland for two months to carry out research around community uses of the Cultybraggan former Prisoner of War Camp, basing herself at the University of Glasgow for that time. Shortly after her Fellowship ends, Iain will come to Finland for a further two months, so that he can once again participate in the excavations in Inari, carry out further field research and spend time at the Universities of Helsinki and Oulu.

We wish everyone all the very best for 2017, and look forward to updating you with more project news over the next year!

By Kolbkorr (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kolbkorr (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Talks this week in Helsinki from Lapland’s Dark Heritage

On Wednesday 14th December, Suzie Thomas is giving a talk as part of the University of the Arts’ KuvA Research Days / KuvAn Tutkimuspäivät at the Exhibition Laboratory, Merimiehenkatu 36, Helsinki.  She talks as part of the afternoon “Poetic Archeology” session, with a paper entitled “Archeologies of Conflict and Dark Heritages: Unpicking a painful past”. The full programme is available here as a pdf. All are welcome to this public event.

On Thursday 15th December, both Vesa-Pekka Herva and Oula Seitsonen are talking in different events. Herva gives a presentation in the afternoon at titled “Saksalaisen sotilassairaalan yhteisöarkeologiset tutkimukset Inarissa” (En: Community archaeological studies of a German military hospital in Inari), as part of the University of Helsinki’s archaeologykesalla-kentalla” fieldwork seminar day on Thursday at Porthania, Yliopistokatu 3, Helsinki (room PIII). The event is open to all.

Later the same day at 18:00-20:00, Oula Seitsonen gives a presentation at the public event “Arkeologia tutuksi” (En: Get to know archaeology) organised by the Archaeological Society of Finland, together with Timo Ylimaunu from the University of Oulu. Ylimaunu  is presenting “Modernin maailman arkeologia ja muistaminen” (En: Archaeology of modern world and remembering) and Seitsonen presents “#InariDig: Yleisö- ja yhteisöarkeologia modernin maailman monimerkityksisen kulttuuriperinnön käsittelyssä” (En: #InariDig: Public and community archaeology in dealing with the multifaceted heritage of the modern world), at Kirjasto 10, Elielinaukio 2G, Helsinki. Follow the link for the event flyer: modernin-maailman-arkeologiaa.

New publication from Koskinen-Koivisto and Thomas / Uusi julkaisu

Project researchers Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto and Suzie Thomas contributed a chapter to the new edited volume “Heritage in Action: Making the Past in the Present”, which was recently published by Springer, edited by Helaine Silverman, Emma Waterton and Steve Watson.

The book chapter, entitled “Lapland’s Dark Heritage: Responses to the Legacy of the World War II”, contributes to the wide and diverse volume which looks at different ways in which the idea of heritage is an active (and activist) phenomenon which is constantly on the move and changing.

The abstract for the chapter is:

“Dark” or “difficult” heritage is increasingly becoming of interest to researchers. How do different communities, whether in situ, online, or united by a particular hobby or interest, relate to aspects about the past that may be difficult or painful to reconcile? Do these encounters with difficult heritage lead to exploitation, indifference, destruction, or other even more diverse responses? This chapter focuses on communities in far northern Finland where different groups, both locally and more remotely, for example via online encounters, have chosen to engage (or not to engage) with the physical remains left by German activity in Lapland during World War II. These groups, including tourists, local residents, and hobbyist treasure hunters, respond differently to this “dark” heritage generated and in so doing generate their own connections and reconnections with the past.”

The book is dedicated to the memory of a much loved and respected colleague Professor Steve Watson, who sadly and unexpectedly passed away during the production of the volume.


Suzie’s and Eerika’s bookselfies.

Projektitutkijat Eerika Koskinen-Koiviston ja Suzie Thomasin kirjoittama artikkeli julkaistiin teoksessa “Heritage in Action: Making the Past in the Present”, jonka Springer juuri julkaisi. Teoksen toimittavat Helaine Silverman, Emma Waterton and Steve Watson.

Artikkelin nimi on “Lapland’s Dark Heritage: Responses to the Legacy of the World War II” ja se käsittelee sotahistoriaharrastajia sekä muuta aktiivista toimintaa sodan kulttuuriperinnön parissa Suomen Lapissa.  Laajassa  artikkelikokoelmassa kulttuuriperintöä  tarkastellaan dynaamisena ja muuntuvana ilmiönä, jonka kentällä toimii erilaisia aktivisteja ja instituutiota. Yllä artikkelin englanninkielinen abstrakti.

Teos on omistettu pidetyn ja kunnioitetun kollegamme professori Steve Watsonin muistolle. Kaikkien suruksi hän kuoli yllättäen kesken kirjaprojektin.


Researcher Suzie Thomas participating in a Difficult Memories workshop on 4th November

Project Researcher Dr Suzie Thomas is giving a presentation at the upcoming workshop “Difficult Memories – Key Terms” hosted by the University of Helsinki on Friday 4th November, 2016. The event is part of the international ERA-NET research scheme “LivingMemories”, which connects researchers across six different countries.

Interior of the University of Helsinki's Main Building. Image by Näystin under CC BY-SA 2.0.

f Interior of the University of Helsinki’s Main Building. Image by Näystin, available under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Suzie will give a presentation titled ‘Difficult Memories in Finland’s far north: “Dark Heritage” and the legacy of the Lapland War’. The abstract is as follows: Official national narratives and personal recollections of times of conflict are frequently at odds. Uncomfortable truths can become silenced, whilst more seemingly “glorious” events become celebrated. Like most of Europe, Finland was drawn into the Second World War, for various reasons becoming a co-belligerent with Nazi Germany for much of the conflict. Until late 1944, some 200,000 German soldiers were stationed in Finland, many in Finnish Lapland. Reports suggest that interactions between locals and Germans were largely amicable. It was not until the 1944-45 so-called Lapland War (resulting from a treaty agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union to expel the Germans), that town and infrastructure destruction occurred due to the German army’s scorched earth tactics as they retreated into Norway. The combination of this violent end to Finnish-German cooperation, and subsequent embarrassment at having sided with the Nazis, have arguably led to the downplaying of the significance of the Lapland War in the national interpretation of Finland in the Second World War. At the same time locally, there is continued interest in this period; expressed through local hobbyist activity and even museum exhibitions. In this paper I briefly introduce the historical background to our case study, and then introduce some of the ways in which this difficult heritage has been silenced or highlighted – depending on the circumstances. I debate whether it is correct to suggest that this period and place has a “dark heritage” at all, and consider the impact of our own research activities on the local communities.

Suzie with a Snow Dog in the North East of England.

Suzie with a Snow Dog in the North East of England.

Followers on Twitter should look out for the project hashtag #LivingMemo, and for the seminar itself also look for @helsinkiuni, #research and #keyterms.

Project researcher Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto visits the Centre for Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology, University of Glasgow

gla As part of the mobility programme of the project, researcher Dr. Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto visited the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, University of Glasgow last week. She gave a talk at the war history seminar of the Scottish Centre for War Studies. The title of her presentation was “Responses to Lapland’s Dark Heritage – Public Archaeology of the WWII in Finnish Lapland”. In her talk Koskinen-Koivisto discussed the engagements and responses of local communities and history hobbyists to the concept of dark heritage and the ethical questions and responsibilities related to the difficult and ambivalent heritage of the WWII in Finnish Lapland. In addition to the public talk, Dr. Koskinen-Koivisto spoke also to the MLitt students of battlefield archaeology about doing public archaeology.

The Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow was established in April 2006. The Centre is the first facility of its kind and has earned a reputation as an international center of excellence for the study of the archaeology of battlefields and other archaeological manifestations of human conflict. Founding member of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, Dr. Iain Banks participated in the public excavations in Inari in August.



New open access journal article on metal detecting in Finland

Project researcher Suzie Thomas has co-authored an article with Anna Wessman from the University of Helsinki and Leena Koivisto of Satakunta Museum in Pori.

The article is titled “Metal Detecting in Finland – An Ongoing Debate” and is published open access in De Gruyter’s journal Open Archaeology.

It discusses various case studies within Finland, including drawing on some of the research from Lapland’s Dark Heritage.

Abstract: This outline article presents and critiques legislation as it affects the metal detecting hobby and the archaeological profession. It considers some of the ways in which metal detectorists themselves have caused controversy but also positive news in relation to archaeological heritage in Finland. A selection of examples of collaboration based on the authors own experiences is presented, also the impact of metal detecting on material culture and archaeological research. The continuing object-oriented focus of both metal detectorists and the media is identified. New collection and engagement strategies could enhance archaeological research, while engaging this particular section of the wider public.


Please help us with our survey!

Did you attend the excavation or any of the other events during #InariDig week? Did you follow any of our updates on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Then please take a few moments to fill in our online evaluation survey. This will help our ongoing research.

Simply follow this link (survey is in English)

Thank you.

Osallistuitko yleisökaivauksille tai kaivausviikon tapahtumiin? Seurasitko päivityksiämme Facebookissa, Twitterissä tai Instagramissa? Olisimme kiitollisia, jos käyttäisit pienen hetken täyttääksesi lyhyen kyselyn, joka liittyy tutkimukseemme.

Klikkaa tästä (kysymykset  englanniksi).


Site 2 - the burned medical supplies - photographed from above with a GoPro. Photo by Wesa Perttola.

Site 2 – the burned medical supplies – photographed from above with a GoPro. Photo by Wesa Perttola.

Backilling Site 1 - possible storage with multiple glass, metal and ceramic finds - Drs Gabriel Moshenska and Iain Banks putting their backs into it. Photo: Suzie Thomas

Backilling Site 1 – possible storage with multiple glass, metal and ceramic finds – Drs Gabriel Moshenska and Iain Banks putting their backs into it. Photo: Suzie Thomas

Wehrmacht-branded insect spray found on Site1. Photo: Gabriel Moshenska

Wehrmacht-branded insect spray found on Site1. Photo: Gabriel Moshenska

Yleisökaivaukset vauhdissa:loppuviikon ohjelma / #InariDig week well underway: program for the rest of the week

Inarin yleisökaivaukset alkoivat maanantaina! Ohjelmassa on vielä paljon kiinnostavia tapahtumia:

KE 3.8.
15.30-16.30 Pressitapahtuma, Siidan auditorio
17:00-18.00 Englanninkieliset yleisöluennot, Siidan auditorio / Lectures by our guests Dr. Iain Banks (Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, University of Glasgow), and Dr. Gabriel Moshenska (Institute of Archaeology, University College London), Auditorium of Siida

TO 4.8.
10:00-15:00 Kaivaukset (ennalta ilmoittautuneille)
14:00-14.30 Yleisöopastus kaivauksilla, lähtö Siidan edestä (opastus suomeksi ja englanniksi)
16:00-16:15 Tarinoiden Inari -projektin esittely, projektityöntekijä Merja Vaattovaara, Siidan auditorio 16:15-19:00 Tarinoiden Inari -projekti haastattelee ihmisiä Siidassa

PE 5.8.
10:00-15:00 Kaivaukset (ennalta ilmoittautuneille)
17:00-18:00 Kaivausten tulosten esittely, tutkija Oula Seitsonen ja professori Vesa-Pekka Herva, Siidan auditorio

LA 6.8.
10:00-11.30 Kyläkierros Inarin kirkonkylän sotahistoriallisilla kohteilla, Matti Lehtola, lähtö Siidan edestä (siirtymiset omalla autolla)

Muistutus: voitte seurata päivityksiä Twitterissä (@DarkLapland), Instagramissa (@Dig_Inari) ja Facebookissa  “Lapland’s Dark Heritage”. Seuraa hästägiä #InariDig

Co2WAmqW8AEpgFRInari Dig week began on Monday! We still have a full program of events over the remainder of the week, including the following:

WED 3.8.
15.30-16.30 Press event, Auditorium of Siida
17:00-18.00 Lectures in English by Dr. Iain Banks (Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, University of Glasgow), and Dr. Gabriel Moshenska (Institute of Archaeology, University College London), Siida Auditorium (all welcome)

THU 4.8.
10:00-15:00 Excavations continue (pre-booked participants only)
14:00-14.30 Guided tour to the excavation site, meeting in front of Siida (car needed, Finnish / English, all welcome)
16:00-16:30 Introduction of Tarinoiden Inari project, Project worker Merja Vaattovaara, Siida Auditorium (in Finnish, all welcome)
16:30-19:00 Interviews of local people by Tarinoiden Inari project, Siida (all welcome)

FRI 5.8.
10:00-15:00 Excavations continue (pre-booked participants only)
17:00-18:00 Introducing of the findings of the excavations researcher Oula Seitsonen and Professor Vesa-Pekka Herva, Siida Auditorium (all welcome)

SAT 6.8.
10:00-11.30 Village tour to the war historical sites of Inari, Matti Lehtola, starting from Siida (in Finnish, car needed, all welcome)

Remember you can follow updates on Twitter (@DarkLapland), Instagram (@Dig_Inari), and search for us on Facebook as “Lapland’s Dark Heritage”. Follow the hashtag #InariDig


New article published in World Archaeology journal


Our latest article was recently published in the international journal World Archaeology.

‘I have better stuff at home’: treasure hunting and private collecting of World War II artefacts in Finnish Lapland is written by Vesa-Pekka Herva, Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto and Suzie Thomas, and has the following abstract:

Almost all archaeologists encounter collectors of different kinds of artefacts at some point in their career, whether it is the private collectors of financially valuable antiquities or ‘amateur archaeologists’ who have amassed personal collections of local finds. In our research into the material legacy of the German presence in northern Finland during World War II, we have encountered both artefact hunters (primarily but not exclusively metal detecting enthusiasts) and artefact collectors (sometimes the same people) with a specific interest in military remains from this location and period. In this article, we explore these alternative perspectives on collecting, and frame them within the context of treasure hunters, militaria collectors and other history hobbyists, and their relationship to the ‘official’ heritage managers and curators.

The article forms part of a special issue on archaeologists and collectors, which will be published in full later in the year.

For more information about this article and other publications, contact the project team.


Suzie Thomas talking at ACHS in Montreal about Lapland’s Dark Heritage

Suzie Thomas is participating in the third Association of Critical Heritage Studies, which is taking place in Montreal, Canada. She speaks on 6th June, with a presentation entitled “Locals, Incomers, Tourists and Gold Diggers: Space, Politics, and the “Dark Heritage” Legacy of the Second World War in Finnish Lapland”, in the session “Flexible Scales and Relational Territoriality in the Meaning-Making of Cultural Heritage”. The abstract is as follows:

In different circumstances and at different times, the actions of countries, communities, and even individuals may be prioritized and celebrated, forgotten or silenced, or even re-packaged for different audiences. This can happen in order to conform to state-approved historical narratives, to privilege one group’s experience over another’s, to create distance from more shameful or painful events, to reconcile with past traumas, or simply to find a way to coexist in the present. Contested heritage in this sense has been readily discussed within cultural heritage studies for some time. This paper will focus on one such region in which the material legacy of twentieth-century conflict has had significant impact on the landscape and on how it can be regarded as a space with competing meanings, and levels of significance, for different actors. 

Finland’s experience in the Second World War has been regarded variously as heroic—through the telling and re-telling of the exploits against the Soviet Union in the Winter and Continuation Wars; embarrassing—through the alliance with Nazi Germany for much of the war; shameful—through the often brutal treatment of prisoners of war on Finnish soil; and painful—through the lost territory in the East that resulted in forced migration, and the evacuations of Lapland during the 1944-1945 Lapland War. 

Finnish Lapland in particular had conflicting experiences of the Second World War. From 1940 to 1944 some 200,000 German soldiers were based in Finland, mostly in Lapland. Local recollections from that time often focus on the friendliness of interactions between Finnish and Sámi people, and the German military. Also present were numerous prisoner of war camps, run by both Finns and Germans, and populated mostly by Eastern European and Soviet prisoners. 

The 1944-1945 retreat of the German military from Finland into Norway included “scorched earth” tactics, destroying almost all infrastructure and buildings in Lapland; deleting much of the historic environment in the process and requiring the mass evacuation of almost all residents. This meant that those returning after the mass evacuations were confronted with a landscape that was at once familiar and irrevocably different, with profound implications, for example, for cultural memory.

The legacy of the Second World War in Lapland, and in particular of the mass destruction, is currently at times both omnipresent and hidden. The material culture left by now-departed Germans is noticeable for its abundance in the landscape, with different local, national, and even international actors taking ownership and agency over the material remains in different and often-conflicting ways. Meanwhile, in the context of the national narrative, some Lapland locals feel that their experiences are diminished, even silenced, relative to the celebrated experiences in the south of Finland. Coupled with this is the continued view of Lapland as a somehow liminal, exotic, and “other” space compared to other places, even within Finland, and the “dark” lens through which cultural heritage connected to war is often viewed. This is inspired by the concept of “dark tourism”: the touristic experience and consumption of sites connected to conflict, murder, execution, and other atrocities. 

In this paper I will explore how the “dark heritage” connected to Lapland’s experience of the Second World War is perceived, exploited, enjoyed, forgotten, or avoided by different parties and on different spatial levels. This includes those residents who returned from evacuation after the war, “incomers” who have been drawn to Lapland through fascination with this period for various reasons, and those responsible for official and “authorized” narratives of Finland and Lapland. Common throughout my discussion are the tensions and power struggles as different perspectives and values are privileged or marginalized over or in favour of others.


Part of Montreal’s skyline.

There are plans to publish the session in some format after the conference. We will update with more information in due course.