Picture collection

L. Onerva och Väinö Streng vid bröllopsbordet i Alphyddan 1905. L. Onervas arkiv.
Newlyweds L. Onerva and Väinö Streng. L. Onerva archive.
The literature and cultural history picture collection comprises over 1300 separate picture collections, featuring over 250,000 individual photographs. The picture collection reflects both public Finnish cultural life and the private histories of families.
  • The picture collection catalogue provides you with the basic information concerning the picture collection’s contents.
  • SKS maintains the biographical picture database, where you can search for and order photographs by people’s names.

The literature and cultural history picture collection consists of picture collections of Finnish authors and cultural persons, literary societies, events and associations donated to the SKS archives, as well as photographs related to the Finnish Literature Society’s own history. The photographic material of literary societies reflects public cultural life. The archives of several different persons include photographs related to literature groups, such as Tulenkantajat and Kiila.

The picture collections are the result of the life and work of the archive subjects. Each collection is unique and shares information about the life, interests, work and organisation activities, social circles and social relationships of the person in question.

There are extensive picture collections in the archives of several authors who were also interested in photography, such as Teuvo Pakkala, Helvi Hämäläinen, Ilmari Kianto, Yrjö Kokko, Otto Manninen and Aaro Hellaakoski.

Building the picture collection of literature and cultural history

Photographs have been received during the entire existence of the archive, along with other material. To ensure the permanence and usability of the photographs, they were separated from other archive material and stored as their own collections in the 2000s.

The oldest photographs date to the mid-19th century, and new ones are taken all the time. The picture collections show the technical and other development of photography. Most works in the literature and cultural history picture collection are prints in a format technically typical of their era.

Storing and organising the photographs

The literature and cultural history picture collection has been variously organised and archived during the different eras. In the oldest organisational style, photographs were arranged alphabetically, based on the names of the people in the photographs. Later, the system changed, and the photographs were archived as intact units in terms of their provenance, based on the archive subject.

The picture collection of each archive is stored as its own unit. The picture collection’s prints are stored in cases. Each case holds only the photographs of one archive, but one picture collection may include several cases.

The photographs have individual identification codes. This code always includes the prefix KIAK, the collection’s ID and the unit number, e.g. KIAK2014:8:1. The digital copy’s file name is also based on this identification code.


Material donations help the picture collection to grow, as photographs are usually received as parts of other archived material. SKS documents its own operations through photography. The photographs related to SKS’s operations comprise their own, extensive and constantly growing collection. The SKS archive also documents other literary events, such as the international author meeting in Lahti.

On average, photographs are accrued at an annual rate of five thousand photographs.

Photograph data from the database

The general catalogue for literature and cultural history material reveals which archives include photographs.

Information about the archive subjects’ picture collections is listed in the AHAA database, where information about photographs can be searched for based on e.g. the photographer, the subject, the location or the date. SKS archive employees will make database searches on request.

The biographical picture database maintained by SKS's Biography Centre features photographs of authors, and they can be searched for in and ordered from the database.

Ex-librīs collection

The ex-librīs collection mainly features ex-librīs, i.e. bookplates that belong in different archives. The collection comprises bookplates from about 200 different people, and a few have several versions.

The ex-librīs designed and collected by graphic designer Helmiriitta Honkanen forms the largest individual collection. It includes both Finnish and foreign bookplates, a total of 16 cases (1.4 shelf metres).

Other featured ex-librīs artists include, among others: Erkki and Markku Tanttu, Raimo Puustinen, Viive Tolli, Einar Palmunen and Markus Visanti. Not all the artists have been identified.