1st Edition

Objects in the Archives Modern Material Culture and Heritage in the North

Edited By Kristján Mímisson, Davið Ólafsson Copyright 2025
    320 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Situated on an intersection between Material Culture Studies, History and Museum and Archival Studies, this book investigates the material world of the Icelandic population in the late Modern Era.

    Utilizing the great wealth of inventories of household goods stored at The National Archives of Iceland in conjunction with material objects, the book highlights new paths and insights into understanding people’s possessions and material relations, and the entwined biographies of people and things. It shows how people shaped their own lives by means of things, and how these material relations are “archived” and represented in heritage and museum spaces. The book is divided into two parts that explore how material culture contributes to history, the relationship between things and text, the practice of collecting things and address the process of assembly, or how things gather. Micro and macro methods of investigation tease out new approaches to debates around human-thing relationships, acknowledging ideas about material agency and social significance and that the human-material relation is reciprocal.

    This volume will appeal to students and researchers within the field of archaeology, material culture studies, museum studies, heritage and the history of material culture.

    1          Introduction: What Are Our Favourite Things and Why

                Kristján Mímisson and Davíð Ólafsson


    Objects of Expression – Expressing Objects

    2          Probate Records and Private Property in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Iceland

                Már Jónsson

    3          Wool Socks, Silk Scarfs, Needles, and Wood Saws: Material Culture on the Margins of Icelandic Society

                Anna Heiða Baldursdóttir

    4          Lending and Borrowing of Books and Manuscripts: Sharing Economy and the Material Culture of Text in Nineteenth Century Iceland

                Davíð Ólafsson

    5          The Speech of Spindle Whorls: Words on Things and Things in Words

                Gavin Lucas

    6          The Affect of Relating: On the Various Manifestations of Things

                Kristján Mímisson

    7          And Old Manuscript, Leather Shoes, and a Walking Stick: The Role of Material Agency in Literary Criticism

                Andri M. Kristjánsson


    Objects of Gathering – Gathering Objects

    8          In Pursuit of Modernity? On Collecting and Aesthetics in Iceland

                Anna Lísa Rúnarsdóttir

    9          The Icelandic Turf House as Skin: Archive, Anarchy, Heritage

                Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson and Arnar Árnason

    10        The ‘Archive’: Things to Consider

                Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon

    11        Buried Archives: The Multiple Curators of Waste

                Ágústa Edwald Maxwell

    12        In the Nude, Without Archive: Recollecting Traces of Holmegaard

    Tim Flohr Sørensen and Þóra Pétursdóttir

    13        Icelandic Cake Fight: History of an Immigrant Recipe

                Laurie K. Bertram

    14        Collecting Bald Cypress Knees: An Exercise in Symbiotic Interaction

                Ewa Domanska

    15        Epilogue: Things on a Wall: Potential History

                Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon



     Dr. Kristján Mímisson is an archaeologist and editorial curator at the National Museum of Iceland.

    Dr. Davið Ólafsson is a historian and associate professor at the University of Iceland.