That Time I went to Finland & Sweden and Took over 3500 Photos: Making the Most of Student Development Funding

Our guest blogger this week is Hannah Yoken. Hannah is a Finnish-American SGSAH / AHRC funded PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow researching transnational Nordic feminism. Her PhD project is titled ‘From peripheral to paragon? The transnational development of Nordic feminism since the 1960s’. During her studies Hannah has specialised in the development of various social movements and countercultures in post-war Europe and North America. Methodologically, she has a strong interest in oral history and social theory. 

My PhD journey began in October 2016, when I started working on my doctoral project on transnational Nordic feminism. Specifically, I am looking at how Nordic feminist activists utilised and were affected by international influences and transactions from the 1960s until the 1990s.

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A historian’s dream: cardboard boxes and folders full of intriguing source material at the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Tampere.

I have gravitated towards oral history (a.k.a. interviewing people) since I was an undergraduate, perhaps in part because the thought of sitting in a dusty archive alone for days never seemed especially appealing to me. However, my recent SDF-funded research trips to Finland and Sweden have left me with a newfound fondness for vintage folders full of intriguing meeting minutes, newspaper clippings and posters.

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The National Archives of Finland, located in Helsinki, are worth visiting for many reasons, but a special shout-out goes to the gorgeous reading room.

My archive trips took place in two parts. A ten-day trip to Finland took me from the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas to the National Archives, with plenty of archive pit-stops in between. I then headed to the University of Gothenburg in Sweden for two weeks, where I worked in the archives of KvinnSam, the Swedish national resource library for gender studies. Countless hours and over 3500 photographs later, I now have a concrete source database that I can refer to throughout my PhD. Many thanks to all the wonderful archivists who helped me along the way! Without you, my work, and the work of historians everywhere, would be impossible or at least impossibly challenging.

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The History Department at Gothenburg University (and my silhouette if you look carefully enough) – handily located in the same building as the archive where I was working.

Despite my recently discovered love for textual sources, I must admit that I could not shake my extroverted tendencies and managed to sneak some human interaction into my trip. Prior to my excursion to Sweden, I sent out a few emails to various Gothenburg University based gender studies and gender history mailing lists. These emails led to several invigorating and inspiring meetings with scholars working in my field. Therefore, the main advice I have for my fellow PhD students is to make the most out of your research trips by adding some networking into the mix. Be it an archivist or an academic working on a topic you are interested in – don’t be afraid to reach out and get to know the people around you.

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