Models of the Past. Architectural Reconstructions in Modern Sweden

Victor Edman

Project Period: 2012-2013
Type: Senior Research Project
Program Area(s): Critical Historiography


Many historical environments in Sweden that today are looked upon as national heritage have in fact been entirely or partially reconstructed in modern days. Reconstruction was a common method in the restoration practice of the second half of the 19th century, which was severely criticized by the turn of the century 1900, when questions of authenticity became topical. The negative attitude to all sorts of copying relates to key issues within modernity, such as authenticity, originality and progress. The ability to distinguish the genuinely old from the copy belonged the modern historian’s key competence, particularly useful for the new professional field of cultural heritage. Despite this, reconstructions of various kinds have been frequent during the 20th century, even within officially supported and publicly funded restoration projects. Such projects were strongly dependent on academic research and historical expertise. Thus architects, academic scholars, museum curators and preservationists contributed to the elaborate formation of a national heritage. Still reconstructed heritage retains an indeterminate status, being neither old nor contemporary.

Very few studies have so far dealt with architectural reconstructions, although modern experimental archaeology, museum exhibits and the rebuilding of European cities after World War II are areas that have gained some academic attention. This project examines theoretical and practical aspects of architectural reconstructions in 20th century Sweden, mainly within the heritage sector. Focus lies on the relation between historiography and reconstruction projects. The main objective is to reach an understanding of how conceptions of the past, primarily expressed within a historiographical context, serve as models for the reconstruction of missing buildings or building components. This may initiate a discussion on how historiography itself, with its inherent set of values regarding canon, class, nationality etcetera, eventually is brought to life in full scale. "

Researcher(s) Bio and Publications