Colonial Objects in Early Modern Sweden and Beyond: From the Kunstkammer to the Current Museum Crisis

Guest lecture by Mårten Snickare, Professor of Art History at Stockholm University.

How did a decorated tomahawk from somewhere along the North American east coast end up in the royal collections in Stockholm in the late 17th century? What does it say about the Swedish kingdom’s colonial ambitions and desires? What questions does it raise from its present place in a display cabinet in the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm?

In this lecture Mårten Snickare presents his new book that focuses on this tomahawk and other objects like it, acquired in colonial contact zones and displayed by Swedish elites in the seventeenth century. Colonial Objects in Early Modern Sweden and Beyond (Amsterdam UP, 2022) situates colonial objects in two distinct but related spaces – the expanding space of the colonial world, and the exclusive space of the Kunstkammer – and traces the objects’ physical and epistemological transfer into the modern museum system, where they remain at the centre of heated debates over the present state of museums, and their possible futures.

Mårten Snickare is Professor of Art History at Stockholm University and Administrative Director of Accelerator, an exhibition space where art and science meet. He has published extensively on Swedish and European Baroque art and architecture, and colonial objects in museums and other collections.