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Burström Releases Book: Treasured memories

Burström Releases Book: Treasured memories

Mats Burström: Treasured Memories. Tales of buried belongings in wartime Estonia. Lund, Nordic Academic Press (2012).

In the autumn of 1944, around 70,000 people fled Estonia in the face of the Red Army advance. Most of them believed the Soviet occupation would be shortlived and they would soon be able to return home, so many of them hid the most valuable of their belongings they were unable to carry, burying them in ‘safe’ places. Until Stalin’s death in 1953, Estonians continued […]


Back in Pyramiden, Svalbard

Back in Pyramiden, Svalbard

Text and photos by Elin Andreassen and Hein B. Bjerck

In August 2011, Elin and Hein revisited Pyramiden, this time as “protagonists” for the German TV production “Moderne Ruinen”[i]. We also had an agenda of our own: to see what was going on, and check rumors about Trust Arcticugol’s efforts to conserve buildings and facilitate the increasing numbers of visitors to the former Soviet company town some 90 km from their present stronghold in Barentsburg.

In 2006, we had stayed here with […]


Planning for the Unthinkable

Planning for the Unthinkable

by Mats Burström (with Alfredo González-Ruibal )

Frontispiece: Dining room. The blue colour on the wall is intended to imitate a blue sky. 

During the Cold War the fear for the unthinkable – a full-scale nuclear war – was a deeply felt reality. Accordingly, it was something the government and the authorities had to plan for. Sweden’s officially declared status as a neutral country made no exception in this regard; the geographical nearness to the Soviet Union was conceived as a very real military […]


The “Archaeology of Memory” at the Sorø Kuntsmuseum

The "Archaeology of Memory" at the Sorø Kuntsmuseum

The Archaeology of Memory is the first of three projected exhibitions about materiality. The other materiality exhibitions will be in 2013 (soil) and 2014 (immateriality). This first exhibition takes its point of departure in materiality understood as things and the ‘thingness’ of things. The tactile, sensuous qualities of things, and how things relate to our memory and our history. Things are not dead matter but play an active role in our lives, in learning and remembering. Things shape culture and […]


Ephemeral ruins, transient landscapes

Ephemeral ruins, transient landscapes

by Alfredo González-Ruibal and Manuel Sánchez-Elipe

We tend to think of ruins as something durable and solid. They are, in fact, defined as that which remains: a material core that is left after everything else has corroded, eroded and gone. Yet there are also ephemeral ruins, which are part of transient cultural landscapes. Consider the ruinous geographies that appear whenever large construction works are undertaken: buildings are torn down while others begin to rise from the ground, piles of brick, cables and […]


Mats Burström visiting scholar at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Mats Burström visiting scholar at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Ruin Memories member Mats Burström has been appointed as an Honorary Visiting Researcher at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. During the period September to November 2012 he will give several talks related to the archaeology of the recent past at La Trobe University, Flinders University (Adelaide), and Sydney University.


Sværholt: Memories of a Northern War Site

Sværholt: Memories of a Northern War Site

by Bjørnar Olsen and Christopher Witmore

Sværholt is a cape set between the wide fjords of Porsanger and Laksefjord in the northernmost Norwegian region of Finnmark (Figure 1).  The cape exhibits the characteristic topography of this northern coastline: a flat barren summit that from its northern edge plunges suddenly and steeply into the sea. On the southern side, the cape descends more or less evenly into a low isthmus connecting the cape with the main Sværholt peninsula. At either end of this […]


Berkeley Pit, Butte Montana

Berkeley Pit, Butte Montana

by Tim LeCain

High in the northern Rocky Mountains, at the headwaters of the Colombia River basin, the giant Berkely Pit copper mine marks one end of America’s largest government mandated toxic waste clean-up site. For almost three decades, the Anaconda Corporation blasted millions of tons of low-grade copper ore out of the pit, until the company decided to shut the operation down in 1982. Since then, the pit has been steadily filling with groundwater that is nearly as acidic as […]


Program for 3rd Ruin Memories Workshop Falmouth, Nov. 18-19, 2011

Program for 3rd Ruin Memories Workshop Falmouth, Nov. 18-19, 2011

3RD RUIN MEMORIES WORKSHOP FALMOUTH NOV 18-19, 2011

St Michael’s Hotel & Spa, Falmouth

Thursday Nov 17

Checking in, etc

20.00 Dinner at Gylly Beach

Friday Nov 18

09.30 – 10.00 Introduction

10.00 -10.45 Gavin Lucas: Mobile Homes – ruination and the mobility of things

10.45 -11.30 Þóra Pétursdóttir: Things on the move and moments of intervention: A glimpse of the summer’s excavations at Eyri, Iceland

11.30 -11.45 Coffee/tea break

11.45 -12.30 Elin Andreassen/Hein Bjerck: Yuri’s Gym and Wall-E – Thrills and Troubles of the Abandoned […]


Mats Burström and Ruin Memories at CHAT Boston

Mats Burström and Ruin Memories at CHAT Boston

Mats Burström will be representing the Ruin Memories project at the upcoming CHAT (Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory) conference at Boston University, Boston, MA. The general theme for the conference is ‘People and things in motion’ and it takes place November 11-13, 2011.

The full program of CHAT 2011 is available from their website here.

Mats Burström will give a talk titled ‘Artifactual Memories in Exile: Family Belongings Hidden in the Ground in Estonia during the Second World War’.

Figure: Set […]


Ruin Memories: Materialities, aesthetics and the archaeology of the recent past

Ruin Memories: Materialities, aesthetics and the archaeology of the recent past

Numerous studies have focused on modernity’s destructive effect on traditional life-worlds, the desertion of villages and the ruination of rural areas. However, the fact that the modern condition also produces its own ruined materialities, its own marginalized pasts, has been less spoken about. Since the 19th century, mass-production, consumerism and cycles of material replacement have accelerated; increasingly larger amounts of things are increasingly rapidly victimized and made redundant. At the same time processes of destruction have immensely intensified, although largely […]


A Brief Seasonal Ruin-memory

A Brief Seasonal Ruin-memory

by Þóra Pétursdóttir

On my way to the traditional ‘ray fiest’ in Borgarfjörður eystri, NE-Iceland, on the 23rd of December I stopped by an abandoned sheep house and barn, for a short photo exploration and a breath of fresh winter air.  I only later came to think of how appropriate it was to visit a vacant sheep house and barn on that very day.

I’ve actually driven past it several times, on many December 23rds, and always seen it lurking under the dark […]


Ruins-in-the-making: Viðey in the bay of Reykjavík, Iceland

Ruins-in-the-making: Viðey in the bay of Reykjavík, Iceland

by Gavin Lucas

This June, Gavin Lucas with Elín Hreiðarsdóttir and Gísli Pálsson conducted a short fieldwork season at the abandoned industrial village on the island of Viðey in the bay of Reykjavík, Iceland. The aim of the fieldwork was to map the ruins and recover small samples of material assemblages associated with the settlement. Preliminary coring identified middens where 5 trenches were subsequently excavated to retrieve material.

The village was founded in 1907 and lasted less than half a century; begun […]


Þóra Pétursdóttir and Ruin Memories at TAG Berkeley

Þóra Pétursdóttir and Ruin Memories at TAG Berkeley

Þóra Pétursdóttir will be representing the Ruin Memories project at the upcoming Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) in Berkeley, California. She will be taking part in a session entitled “Open Dialogues in Archaeological Photography”. The session abstract is as follows:

In a discipline that has yet to master the balance between the subject and the object; the human and the thing, photographs can inhabit uniquely limbic and potentially very powerful positions. Photographs provide a tangible middle ground between the observing […]


Fast Ruins. Nature and Modernity in Iceland

Fast Ruins. Nature and Modernity in Iceland

by Gavin Lucas

A common contemporary perception of Icelandic ruins aligns itself with the familiar trope of European ruin gazing since the 18th century – an aesthetic of beauty and heritage linked firmly to both the rural landscape and the past of the nation. While in part associated with older ruins now visible only as grassy earthworks, the subtlety of these features as ruins often eludes the average person – indeed, ruin finding as part of routine archaeological surveys, often requires […]


Mining Ruins of Fontao, Spain

Mining Ruins of Fontao, Spain

When we think about modern ruins, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a short-lived structure: an abandoned factory, a derelict housing block, a Cold War bunker. This is in keeping with the fast pace of supermodernity: things (even monumental buildings) are not made to last centuries but years; they are built and consumed fast and disposed of right away. There is no time for sedimentation or long biographies—as those of cathedrals, castles and historic cities. Many modern […]


Butte, America: ruination, reclamation, and the remainder

Butte, America: ruination, reclamation, and the remainder

by Caitlin Desilvey

I’m sitting in an apartment on the sixth floor of the Metals Bank building in Butte. Out the window to the east the city streets end abruptly at the rim of a mile-wide pit, a decommissioned open mine working that is gradually filling with acid mine drainage. The Beaux Arts highrise I’m staying in is a reclaimed ruin—largely vacant for thirty years, it was renovated into upscale condominiums a few years ago. In the 1880s Butte’s copper industry […]


Reanimating Industrial Spaces: Call for papers

Reanimating Industrial Spaces: Call for papers

Call for contributions from researchers working in the Americas/Australasia to a new edited volume. Editor Hilary Orange (UCL Institute of Archaeology, London).

Following two successful ‘Reanimating Industrial Spaces’ conference sessions at TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group, Durham, England 2009 (see Gordon 2010)) and the EAA (European Archaeological Association, Den Haag, Netherlands 2010) additional contributors are sought for a new edited volume – ‘Reanimating Industrial Spaces’  – which will be published by the Institute of Archaeology through Left Coast Press (http://www.lcoastpress.com/) in 2013.

The […]


Mats Burström lectures in Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia

Mats Burström lectures in Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia

Image: Metal detecting in search for objects hidden in Estonia by people fleeing from the Soviet occupation in 1944.

Mats Burström will give a Introductory Lecture into the Archaeology of the Recent Past at the Theoretical Seminar “Landscape, Things and Theories” arranged by the Centre of Excellence in Culture Theory at Tallinn University September 14th.

The full program is available from their website.

The following day, September 15th, Mats Burström will give a lecture, “Artefactual Memories. Family Belongings Hidden in the Ground in […]


Building 500

Building 500

by Timothy Webmoor

Ever since the early antiquarians traipsed across the European countryside and less than gingerly applied their picks, spades and shovels to any number of large prehistoric barrows, the locus of where archaeologists apply their trade has been a rigidly defined space separate from that of their own daily lives. In the 1970’s this separation was opened to debate, contestation and redefinition. Lines were redrawn in the work of Bill Rathje and other Schiffer disciples. In tandem with Binfordite […]


My Father's Things

My Father's Things

by Hein B. Bjerck, Museum of Archaeology and Natural History, NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Trondheim, Norway

“My Fathers Things” is an example of how the RuinMemory issues apply to an individual level of our relation to the recent past.

In the morning of April 5 2009 my father died, almost 86 years old. He lived alone, was in good health, and died suddenly. I suspect that he never knew what happened, and that he probably left life with […]


Demolishing an “Emotional Landmark” in Trondheim, Norway

Demolishing an “Emotional Landmark” in Trondheim, Norway

by Elin Andreassen (photo) and Hein B. Bjerck (text)

As part of the on-going modernization of the St. Olav’s Hospital, the High-house (Høyblokka), the initial core of the hospital is being demolished. The hospital has expanded around its old capital building, and a green lung is planned at the site. The tooth of time, and new demands in the wake of the ever changing ideals, demands and regulations of a how a hospital should be, have rendered Høyblokka dysfunctional.

Normally, the Trondheim […]


Next Ruin Memories Workshop November 18-19, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK

Next Ruin Memories Workshop November 18-19, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK

The next Ruin Memories workshop will be arranged in Falmouth, Cornwall, at the St. Michaels hotel, on November 18-19 (Friday to Saturday). The workshop takes place on November 18 and 19 (Fri-Sat), and you need to arrive Thursday (17th) to Falmouth. There will be an excursion Sunday 20, those who can’t take part may leave then – the others return Monday (you may of course stay as long as you like at your own expenses!). To get there it is most convenient […]


Heinrich Natho and an archaeology of the northern periphery of war

Heinrich Natho and an archaeology of the northern periphery of war

At the northern periphery of war: An archaeology of Second World War sites in northern Finnmark, Norway.

The intensity of the impact of the Second World War on the landscape of Finnmark, the most northern county of Norway, is unique in Europe. When it became clear in autumn 1944 that the advance of the Russian army was unstoppable, Hitler decided to withdraw and raze to the ground an area bigger than Switzerland. What were left were a few villages and some […]