Itineraries and museum objects : a study of a tanner’s logbook

Koppinen, Pirkko Anneli (2020) Itineraries and museum objects : a study of a tanner’s logbook. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The purpose of this thesis is to interrogate the recent concept of object itinerary as a metaphorical and narratological tool to investigate the movements of museum objects from the personal context to the public context of a museum. The research question that this thesis answers is, how can we use the concept of object itinerary to investigate the formation of museum objects? Therefore, I conducted a museological intervention in which I took a tanner’s logbook into a local history museum exhibition in Mäntyharju, Finland and investigated the processes and relationships it entered in on the way. Thus my thesis supplements the lack of experience members of public usually have of these processes. As a member of the community to which the logbook belongs, my aim was to examine the processes by which it moved from the personal context to the museum context and the impact it had on the social and material assemblages it entered. As such, this study is a self-reflexive autoethnographical and anthropological intervention in which the researcher is at the centre of the study. It provides a new case study from Finland to the discussion of museums, museum objects, and communities in the studies of museology, anthropology, material culture studies, and heritage studies. I argue in this thesis that object itinerary, the metaphorical tool used, for example, in archaeology and anthropology, is not sufficient on its own to represent the complex movements of a material object the assemblages through which it enters and exits (Hahn and Weiss 2013 and Joyce and Gillespie 2015). This thesis makes three original contributions to the fields of heritage and museum studies: first, I use the metaphorical and narrative tool of object itinerary which I complement with another metaphor, the early medieval visual analogy of interlace patterning, to examine the logbook’s objecthood. Second, I redefine the concept of the so-called ‘source community’ using the approach from Kovach’s Indigenous methodologies to examine the logbook’s impact as it moves from the contributing community to the public domain of the museum. Third, the logbook’s itinerary interrupts the Authorized Heritage Discourse that affects the exhibition at Iso-Pappila Open-Air Museum and reveals another, a more Democratic Heritage Discourse in action at the local history museums in Finland.

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