From The Archive: Digitalt Museum

I’m in Sweden for a little Easter holiday this week, so please enjoy this post from when I lived there and covered that stylish country for Worn Through! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Glad Påsk!


As someone who is always looking out for new resources and constructive ways to use my time, I thought I would pass along the website I’ve been exploring for the past few days: Digitalt Museum.

The Swedish version of this online collections space is a collaboration between sixteen museums in Sweden, ranging from the large and well-known Nordiska Museet to smaller regional museums, such as The Gotland Museum of Defense (the Norwegian version includes 1 million objects from 87 museums). There are almost 700,000 objects to search and sift through, the majority of which belong to Nordiska Museet, the Upplands Museum, the Army Museum, and the Postal Museum. Fortunately for costume studies scholars, these institutions offer multitudes of clothing objects available for rifling through on this site, which many of them use as a primary visual online catalog.

“Bindmössa” probably owned by Greta Ersdotter, b. 1804 in Upplands. From Upplandsmuseet (UM02868). Photo: same.

It’s not a perfect resource; not every object has good information, some have next to nothing. But I found the site to be user-friendly and visually pleasing. After working in some challenging collections, I can appreciate their efforts to extend connections between materials to the public; the “related objects” section links not only to objects with similar qualities or keywords across all the museums, as we’ve come to expect from websites. In the case of objects such as the trunk below, a “consists of” section also appears, through which one can click on objects found in and accessioned with the chest, such as the above bonnet. This kind of dynamic information makes for rich resources and research.

Chest, marked 1782, probably owned by Greta Ersdotter, b. 1804, in Upplands. From Upplandsmuseet (UM02873). Photo: same.

Thinking about the future of museums and their online presence, the opportunity to see the collections of many museums side by side is fascinating. This creates opportunities for efficient searching, but more importantly, enables happy accidents, in which you find relevant objects at a museum you might not have thought to visit.

Similarly, the “slumpmässigt” button above the images (the “random” button, similar to the icon from iTunes) is endlessly engaging: with a click of that bright pink button, you are given about forty thumbnails with photographs of randomly chosen objects, of which a quarter will probably be clothing-related (!). It’s a great way to think about objects in and out of context and perhaps find new combinations and relationships. Dare I say it is almost like…Pinterest–but bounded by museal integrity?

Below are some clothing history-related things I found that exhibit different facets of this resource, and which will hopefully pique your interest.

Clothing objects:

Nordiska Museet provides especially detailed descriptions of its objects; even the twist of the wool used to knit these stockings is noted (it’s S).

Hand-knit stocking, with zig-zag pattern in the leg and plain along the foot “to save money”, c. 1850-99. Used in Svärdsjö, Dalarna. From Nordiska Museet (NM.0246265A-B)

One dress, two methods; sometimes you can catch glimpses of variations on or changes in attitudes toward photographing clothing. I wonder how these two records of a blue silk dress came to be; was the first simply meant for proprietary documentation? And the second: taken in relation to an exhibition, the result of additional funding for photography, due to an inventory and website update, or another reason?

Blue silk dress, c. 1820. Worn by Charlotta Krook Kjellberg, maybe in Skåne. From Nordiska Museet (NM. 024402). Photo: Elisabeth Eriksson/Nordiska Museet.
Blue silk dress (same as above), c. 1820-9, here mounted on a dress form with bright white accessories. This listing is for a set of photographs of the dress object, while that above is for the object itself. From Nordiska Museet (photograph NMA.0052197). Photo: Mats Landin/Nordiska Museet, 2008.
Swedish Pickelhaube of brass, model “m/1894”, c. 1894. From Armémuseum (AM.001629). Photo: same.



Weaving samples seem to be a large part of these museums’ collections:

Weaving samples for churches in Uppland. Designed by Britta Rendahl-Ljusterdahl, 1970. From Upplandsmuseet (UM.41319). Photo: same.


Two dolls, “Easter witches”, made from fabric scraps and paper, c. 1800-99. From Nordiska Museet (NMA.0113127A-B). Photo: same.



Students, then and now:

Two unidentified young people on a boat in Sundsvall, Västernorrland.; the young man is wearing the traditional cap of a student. Possibly c.1915-25; not noted. From The Sundsvall Museum (SuM-foto 005405). Photo: same.
Young students in traditional caps at their graduation from Katedralskolan in Uppsala, c. 2007-11. From Upplandsmuseet (DIG019275). Photo: Peter Gullers/Upplandsmuseet.


A mini-evolution of woman postal carriers:

“Uniform for a female mail-carrier, 1970s, Stockholm”. From Postmuseum (POST.035331). Photo: unknown.
“Fashion show of new models of uniforms for female mail-carriers, early 1980s.”, c. 1982. From Postmuseum (POST.035338). Photo: unknown.


Fashion photography:

“Woman in dark clothing with a Fall leaf. Exterior.”, c. 1941, by photographer Gunnar Lundh. From Nordiska Museet (NMA.0054759). Photo: Gunnar Lundh/Nordiska Museet.

Sometimes one is even are privy to exhibition space. This photograph from 1934 provides many resources: the state of the exhibition of dress in the 1930s, the clothing itself, as well as the portrait information on the wall.

A documentary photograph of the Postmuseum, 1934. “Postal uniforms and portraits, room 14.” From Postmuseum (POST.018239). Photo: same.


Objects, related:

Rigid birchwood heddle for bandweaving (“Bandvävsked”), accessioned 1926 (no manufacture date), used in Lappland. From Nordiska Museet (NM.0158443). Photo: same.

And seemingly unrelated, as with this cake form:

Wooden cake form in the shape of a man dressed in a 17th-century outfit; German. Accessioned 1896 (no manufacture date). From Nordiska Museet (NM.0081488A-D). Photo: same.


What are your go-to online collections spaces? What makes them valuable to you? What place do you think collections have online, and what is their future? How do you feel about using a database that is not entirely in your mother-tongue? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

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