It was late summer in 1922 when Einar Wallquist, fresh out of medical school and barely 26 years old, arrived in Arjeplog to take up the newly established position of provincial doctor.
Raised in Dalsland Province, educated in Stockholm – Why did he choose Arjeplog? There was probably an element of the romantic notion of life in the wilderness involved. This was Doctor Wallquist’s later explanation of choosing life as a solitary doctor in the sparsely-populated municipality over the security of working among colleagues at a hospital in the metropolis.
If it was indeed the romantic notion of the wilderness that attracted the Doctor, it maintained a tight grip on him. Doctor Wallquist came to spend his entire professional life in the mountain district.
As a provincial doctor, in many ways, Einar Wallquist was a pioneer. He took an interest in preventive medicine, which we now call staying fit. Children’s health and well-being were especially important to the Doctor and, in addition to providing medical care, he also wanted to ensure that children who could not live at home during the school terms had the best lives possible in the school district. To amuse the children, the Doctor organized storytelling, games and skiing competitions.
The long trips he made to visit the sick in their homes dotted across the vast district meant that, on occasion, Doctor Wallquist had to stay overnight at his patients’ homes. It was these visits that aroused his interest in the district’s people and culture, and he soon began seriously collecting artefacts and facts from the Arjeplog district.
He collected everything – objects, photographs, archival documents and stories. His documentation came to include everything imaginable: from how to care for newborn infants to how to harvest wetland hay, cook meals and more.
After 40 years as a doctor and a few years as a pensioner, in October 1965 Einar Wallquist succeeded in opening Silvermuseet, brimming with cultural artefacts that he had so insightfully collected during his long career. For 20 years the Doctor served as head of the museum, until his death at almost 90 years of age in December 1985.
Filled with vivid and expressive depictions of the everyday life of a doctor in Lapland, Einar Wallquist’s books achieved a wide readership and, for many years, topped booksellers’ lists of best-sellers. The first book, Kan Doktorn komma?, was published in 1935 and was followed by around 25 more works of fiction, most of which were also illustrated by their author. Specialist medical literature and culture-historical reference works were also included in Einar Wallquist’s bibliography.
When the workday was over, Dr. Wallquist liked to take out his paintbrushes and drawing pencils and sit down to create. His watercolours with motifs from the regions around Arjeplog were very popular, as were his many portraits of Arjeplog’s residents, which he developed during everyday conversation, depicting his patients while they were convalescing