Barbara SjoholmApr 19, 2023
From Lapland to Sápmi
Collecting and Returning Sámi Craft and Culture
University of Minnesota Press 2023
Material objects—things made, used, and treasured—tell the story of a people and place. So it is for the Indigenous Sámi living in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, whose story unfolds across borders and centuries, in museums and private collections. As described in From Lapland to Sápmi: Collecting and Returning Sámi Craft and Culture (University of Minnesota, 2023) by Barbara Sjoholm, the objects created by the Sámi for daily and ceremonial use were purchased and taken by Scandinavians and foreign travelers in Lapland from the seventeenth century to the present, and the collections described in From Lapland to Sápmi map a complex history that is gradually shifting to a renaissance of Sámi culture and craft, along with the return of many historical objects to Sápmi, the Sámi homeland.
The Sámi objects first collected in Lapland by non-Indigenous people were drums and other sacred artifacts, but later came to include handmade knives, decorated spoons, clothing, and other domestic items owned by Sámi reindeer herders and fishers, as well as artisanal crafts created for sale. Sjoholm describes how these objects made their way via clergy, merchants, and early scientists into curiosity cabinets and eventually to museums in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, and abroad. Musicians, writers, and tourists also collected Sámi culture for research and enjoyment. Sjoholm follows these objects and collections from the Age of Enlightenment through the twentieth century, when artisanship took on new forms in commerce and museology and the Sámi began to organize politically and culturally. Today, several collections of Sámi objects are in the process of repatriation, while a new generation of artists, activists, and artisans finds inspiration in traditional heritage and languages.
Deftly written and amply illustrated, with contextual notes on language and Nordic history, From Lapland to Sápmi brings to light the history of collecting, displaying, and returning Sámi material culture, as well as the story of Sámi creativity and individual and collective agency.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.