Tiny man in the archives

I recently wrote about this Tiny man that caught my attention at the Gold Room at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. The collections and archives of the museum are available online here and I managed to learn some more about this little figure. (There is a button for google translate to English, it seems to work fairly well.)

Tiny man in the archives

This figure dates back to somewhere around the 4th to 5th century. It is made of a silver and copper alloy (appr. 60 % silver), and gold. It was brought to the History Museum in 1935 by the Museum of Falköping. Here are some of the archive photos and documents.

The archive material does not mention when or how it was found, whom it might have belonged to, etc, but it is mentioned as a possibly unique piece, due to its small size. I love to be able to read the letter exchange between the National Heritage Board and the local museum from the 1930’s, and to see the handwritten notes.

Protecting the cultural heritage

In Sweden, the cultural heritage has been protected by law since 1666 (the first law in its kind). At that time, it was felt that historically valuable objects were disappearing, as people just kept whatever they happened to find.

The law says, amongst other, that when you find an object that is more than 100 years old and made of gold, silver or copper, you should report it to the National Heritage Board, who will examine it and buy it from you if it turns out to have historical value. This is how the treasures of the Gold Room over time have grown into such a big collection. Not only archeologists, but also farmers, home gardeners and many others have contributed.

In the case of this little figure, the Museum of Falköping handed in the original to the History Museum, who made a copy of it for display in Falköping.

The historical chain

As I sit here and write about this little figure,  I realise that I can do this only thanks to a chain of ideas and events:

  • The 17th century legislators, who had a vision to safeguard and protect the cultural heritage.
  • The people whose work it is (or was) to catalogise and carefully take proper notes about every single item. It must at times feel like a tedious task, but thank you all for doing it!
  • The developers of digital camera technology, who have brought photography within reach also for us amateurs.
  • The skilled museum staff who knows how to draw our attention even to the tiniest objects.
  • The museums who not only digitise their collections, but also give us online access to these fantastic treasures. If the vision in the 17th century was to save, it is now to share…
  • … which is made possible by the entire internet, and blog platforms like Wordpess and others.

Do you ever browse online museum collections or archives? In your country, what are you supposed to do if you dig up something that could be very old? Is there any object that you carry in your bag or pockets today that you think will end up in a museum one day? Any other thoughts?

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