Strengthening Indigenous Community North of the Arctic Circle

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About Us

The Sámi Museum Siida is located north of the Arctic Circle, in Inari, Finland. It represents the cultures of the Sámi people, an indigenous group who speak nine different languages across their homeland. Three of these languages– Skolt Sámi, Inari Sámi, and North Sámi– are spoken within the present-day boundaries of Finland. The Sámi Museum Siida is a unique institution that seeks to strengthen the well-being of the Sámi community.

Project participants included Anni Guttorm (Curator, Sámi Museum Siida), whose background is in archaeology and museum studies, and Matthew Magnani (Harvard University) an anthropological archaeologist who frequently uses 3D modeling in his research. Additional project support was provided by Marjo-Riitta Rantamäki (Collection Specialist, Sámi Museum Siida).

Why 3D?

The 3D technique was introduced to Sámi Museum’s staff by Matthew Magnani in 2015 when we started to plan together the 3D modeling of objects in the collections.

Siida’s collection represents a rich resource for the Sámi community, who frequently consult the Museum’s contents to inform contemporary culture. Our goal in developing 3D models is to create resources for Sámi artisans and educators — whether they live right next to the Museum, in Helsinki, or abroad — to more easily access the collections held at Siida. Simultaneously, we hope to create a resource for visitors interested in Sámi culture, providing new ways to engage with Siida’s collections while either physically visiting the museum, or through accessing them remotely.

This model is the fierra (=horn) of a Ládjogahpir (=horn hat). It is a wooden horn that is put inside the hat that keeps the hat in its correct form. Sámi women used to wear horn hats, but the hats went out of use by the end of the 19th century due to Laestadianism, a Christian faith. Women weren’t allowed to decorate themselves with imposing accessories according to Laestadian teachings. Most of the horn hats were destroyed or lost over time, but some of them were acquired by European museums. The horn in question is the only one in the Sámi Museum’s collection. It came to the collections as a part of Sámi object repatriation from the Hämeenlinna City Museum in southern Finland.

Workflow and Equipment

Before modeling an object, we invest a significant amount of time evaluating which pieces are important to represent for the Sámi community and/or the broader public. A number of the models we have posted are objects that were recently repatriated to the Museum from other institutions. Other pieces were selected based on discussions with artisans, and others still are examples that may be useful to share more broadly with visitors.

Once we have selected the objects, we use one of two different techniques to digitize them. So far, we have predominantly employed photogrammetry (in particular utilizing the Agisoft PhotoScan Professional software package), but we have also used a NextEngine Laser Scanner. Depending on the size, complexity, and material of the object, we modify our photogrammetric routines. For instance, while for smaller objects we might use a turntable and stationary camera, larger objects may be propped up on a stand while the camera is moved around the subject. We encourage readers to check our our recent publication in Journal of Cultural Heritage, discussing our project in more detail.

Social and Technological Challenges

Through this project we have worked with a variety of mediums, ranging from silver to cloth. Each of these materials provides unique challenges–both related to object conservation, and modeling– for us to deal with. A piece of silver is reflective, while cloth is pliable and changes shape easily. To overcome these issues, we have to actively modify our workflow based on the raw material.

When we publish models we need to think carefully about which ones can be shown to the world and which ones are just for the eyes of the Sámi community. Not all knowledge and traditions are open and to be shared with everybody. Some of the models that we have done are visible just for the community.

The Future of 3D in Museums

New technologies provide new mediums for collaboration between diverse communities and museums. As 3D modeling becomes more widely applied, it is important that museums engage in dialogues with stakeholders to determine how these technologies may be used (and not abused) to their greatest potential. For instance, it may not be culturally appropriate to allow the 3D modeling or printing of objects in some cases, whereas in other cases circulation of 3D representations may be desirable.

By using 3D technology, work in museums and cultural organisations becomes more open, easier to access, and more interactive in many ways. For indigenous people, 3D techniques enable digital repatriations of their cultural heritage that has been spread across institutions around the world.

Sketchfab / Website


About the author

Sámi Museum Siida

The Sámi Museum Siida is the national museum of the Sámi in Finland. The Sámi Museum stores the cultural heritage of the Finnish Sámi in its collections and presents it through its exhibitions and publications.

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