“From Personal Souvenirs to Museum Objects. Shifting Meanings between Congo and Finland in the Early 20th Century”
Professor Leila Koivunen (European and World History, the University of Turku, Finland) is specialized in the history of cultural encounters and the processes of intercultural knowledge formation, especially between Africa and Europe. Her doctoral dissertation, Visualizing Africa in Nineteenth-Century British Travel Accounts (Routledge 2009), traced the roots of stereotyped European imagery of Africa by focusing on the practices of visual representation and illustration processes. More recently, she has conducted research on history of collecting and displaying foreign material cultures in Finnish context (Eksotisoidut esineet ja avartuva maailma. Suomen ulkopuoliset kulttuurit näytteillä Suomessa 1870–1910-luvuilla SKS, 2015). This research focused on certain key institutions in Finland, especially the National Museum of Finland and the Finnish Missionary Society, and their changing and sometimes unorthodox practices of dealing with the assumingly exotic collections in their possession. A significant proportion of these artefacts had ended up to Finland as personal souvenirs. Koivunen is also interested in the history of Finnish involvement in colonial activities during the period of Russian rule and the ways in which attitudes closely connected to colonialism were mediated to Finland.