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Minna L Henriksson

Minna L Henriksson (born 1976 in Finland) is known for her investigations of the hidden stories found in seemingly neutral contexts and material, especially when it comes to issues of national identity and nationalism. Within the framework of History Unfolds she is collaborating with the museum’s head of research and share research material about racial science in the Nordic countries from 1850 to 1945 with him.

Unfolding Nordic Race Science

Wall drawing, installation of objects, 2016

Unfolding Nordic Race Science is a collaborative multidisciplinary project by the visual artist Minna L Henriksson and the archaeologist Fredrik Svanberg dealing with the topic of race science in the Nordic countries. The time span under examination is the 1850s up to 1945. During the research and production phase, material has been shared, findings and conclusions have been discussed, and archives have been visited together. The collaborative project has two outcomes: an art installation by Henriksson and an academic text by Svanberg.

Up until about 1970 there was in the Swedish History Museum a display of skulls categorised into long and short types. This classification was originally developed by the anatomist Anders Retzius and was a central part of the race science hierarchy that placed the ‘Nordic long-skulled race’ at the top. Through the display of objects such as classified skulls, various museums and other institutions in Stockholm and Uppsala were connected to a shared history of promoting race science.

The installation by Minna L Henriksson includes loans from different institutions that have played a role in developing race science in Sweden. The installation includes a large wall drawing, which is a survey of central figures in race science in the Nordic countries between the 1850s and 1945, including anatomists, collectors of human remains, institutions, and patrons, as well as artists who produced images of the constructed white Nordic race and ‘exotic others’. The close relation between fine art and race science proves how, in its time, race science also exerted great influence on many other fields.

The project Unfolding Nordic Race Science addresses a topic that has not been adequately dealt with in most of the Nordic countries. Prior to the Second World War, race science was promoted by the state structures and the scientists were respected members of the national elite. The Nordic countries were united in a web of connections around the science.