Since Silvermuseets founding, research and knowledge acquisition have been important parts of its mission. The museum’s founder, Dr. Einar Wallquist, participated with great interest in research on archaeology and history in Arjeplog’s surrounds, in particular. In his capacity as a doctor, he was among those who early studied acute intermittent porphyria, also known in Sweden as släktsjukan. The illness, caused by a genetic mutation, has been described in international medical literature since the late 1800s. However, in Sweden, Doctor Wallquist was the first to call attention to the disease.
Institute for Subarctic Landscape Research (INSARC)
Under the museum’s current leadership, with Associate Professor Ingela Bergman at the forefront, research has further intensified and the Institute for Subarctic Landscape Research has been established within the framework of the museum. INSARC is an independent division within Silvermuseets organization and is also independent from universities and colleges.
The institute conducts basic research that focuses on the connection between human land use and changes in the ecosystems in northern environments. Its work takes the form of interdisciplinary collaboration, principally between archaeologists and ecologists.
The research also includes other scientific disciplines and the researchers affiliated with the institute all possess leading expertise in their fields and extensive experience of international publication. Operations are conducted using Arjeplog as a base and with a focus on the international research arena.
The objective of the institute’s efforts is to deepen knowledge about the connections between social processes, land use and changes in the ecosystems in subarctic environments and to develop theories, techniques and methods applicable to landscape studies. Two major research projects were prepared during the institute’s first year. The first focused on coastal and inland environments during the early Middle Ages, and the second focused on prehistoric trail systems in alpine environments.
The research results contribute to developing analytical instruments in environmentally strategic development work and have a broad application within administration, education and the private sector.
Knowledge about the historical landscape’s development is a precondition for commercial activities and for conducting natural and historical preservation in a competent, high-quality manner.
Since 2012, a six-year research programme has been conducted at INSARC called Recalling the past: Cultural Heritage, Landscapes and Identity Processes in Northern Fennoscandia (Kulturarv, landskap och identitetsprocesser i norra Fennoskandien). This research programme is financed by the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond) and aims to map and illuminate land use and societal change in far-northern Sweden’s coastal areas during a period in which the cultural landscape was shaped by hunters, fishermen, reindeer herders and farmers whose ethnic and cultural identities cannot be pinpointed exactly among modern groups.
Through an interdisciplinary work encompassing archaeological, historical and ecological fields, studies are being made of social and economic structures and inter-regional relations from the 7th to 20th centuries, with the results being related to present-day identity processes in northern Fennoscandia.
More information about Cultural Heritage, Landscapes and Identity Processes in Northern Fennoscandia can be found on the research programme’s own website, www.recallingthepast.se.
Summary of the Research Programme
In public debate, cultural heritage is assuming an increasingly prominent role as a political instrument. Minorities and native peoples cite a unique cultural heritage to legitimate their own cultural and their social and political ambitions. At present, northern Sweden is an arena for active identity and ethnicity processes with strong political overtones. The Sámi’s exclusive reindeer management right has sparked an ethnic mobilization among Finnish-speaking minorities inspired by a constructed cultural heritage. Reindeer grazing rights in the northern Swedish coastal areas are another area of conflict where cultural heritage, prescription from time immemorial and usufruct are linked in a chain of evidence that is repeatedly weighed in courts of law. The absence of a body of research about the cultural and societal contexts of the Iron Age and Early Middle Ages leaves the field open for essentialist interpretations of archaeological findings and historical sources summarized in the question: Who was first?