Bild på tavla från skokloster

Skokloster as a Laboratory of Collection Studies


The workshop, "Skokloster as a Laboratory of Early Modern Studies," took place at the Skokloster castle and Stockholm University, August 14–18, 2017. The workshop was generously funded by Stockholm University (Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational and research Exchange, INSPIRE) and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, and staffed by The Royal Armory and Skokloster Castle with the Hallwyl Museum (Livrustkammaren, Skoklosters slott och Hallwylska museet/ LSH). For three days researchers from a number of different institutions and disciplines worked together with museum curators with the aim to start an interdisciplinary project at Skokloster that will make new knowledge available to the research community and the larger public.

Wrangel's palace at Skokloster is a self-contained historical toolbox for the study of this period. Uniting extensive collections of books, weapons, and art in a single location, Skokloster provides a compact and efficient way to study early modern Europe. The breadth and depth of the collections demand scholars with a wide array of expertise in languages, culture, material culture, and subject specialization. The research project thus has to be scholarly in aim and interdisciplinary, involving academics, librarians, researchers, and museum curators with special skills to interrogate the collections; it also needs to be comparative in its aim, as the rich collections at Skokloster demand a variety of linguistic and cultural approaches.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Stockholm University (SU) have a long history of co-operation through the INSPIRE program, and including Fulbright and other funding sources. It builds on established expertise at the UIUC in early modern studies in general, and German and Scandinavian in particular and at the Faculty of the Humanities at SU. In Professors Mara R. Wade (UIUC) and Elisabeth Wåghäll-Nivre (SU) the project has two leaders with established international research connections and significant publications in German and Scandinavian literature and culture of the early modern period. Prof. Mara Wade was visiting researcher at SU in May 2016 and studied the collections of the Skokloster palace at previous visits. She is well-known among colleagues at SU who have worked together on different projects in recent years, often uniting the study of languages and literatures with the study of art history, history, and history of ideas. Several of these scholars have worked on the collections of The Royal Armory, Skokloster Castle, and the Hallwyl Museum. This workshop was, however, the first larger project including both scholars from several universities and museum curators.  Dr. Lizette Gradén, research coordinator at LSH, was responsible for coordinating all necessary arrangements at Skokloster before and during the workshop, and she is also an active researcher in the project.

August 14–17 the group met at Skokloster. The interest in participating in the workshop was great among colleagues in Sweden and abroad. Among the participants were scholars of linguistics and literatures (French, German, Italian, Polish, and comparative literature), art history, ethnology, and history of ideas. Two colleagues from the prominent research library Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel contributed to the group with their knowledge in book history. Emerging scholars were given an opportunity to interact with an international group of senior scholars; scholars of literature researched the materiality of the book as well as content related questions; the art historian investigated the library itself, its design and decorations. Ethnologists focused on collections and aspects of curatorial agency. For several of the literary scholars it was their first research stay in a museum rather than a library. Discussions of how to use the museum objects in the library – the books – but also in other locations of the palace became a focal point of the discussions over the three days that the group met at Skokloster.

The fourth day of the meeting the group met at Stockholm University to summarize the outcome of the discussions at Skokloster and to plan for future activities. There was unanimous agreement that this kind of collaboration is critical for the knowledge, conservation, and preservation of historic sites and historic objects and also for content-based research across the collections, most particularly in the library. By revealing the relationships and synergies among the material collections and the persons who owned them, we want to continue to uncover new avenues for future research. The four-day workshop only started a process that needs to be continued so that new knowledge can be gained from the unusually rich collections. The project changed its name accordingly: Skokloster as a Laboratory of Collection Studies.

Mara Wade - Elisabeth Wåghäll Nivre – Lizette Gradén