Collection operations

Kuva: Laura Tikkanen, SKS
Picture: Laura Tikkanen.

“Anyone can write to the archive, regardless of their social class or age group. I believe it is important information about everything and everyone in the archive is available to researchers.” (A woman born in 1943)

“I’m pleased to have been part of recording Finnish culture and traditions. This has been a great addition to my cultural interest during my life.” (A man born in 1928)

“All of us who have taken part in the recording work can be sure that the results of our work are kept safe in SKS’s vaults.” (A woman born in 1935)

Collection operations in the past

Collecting folklore and oral history has been part of the Finnish Literature Society’s operations since its establishment in 1831. At first, researchers mainly collected folklore material. For example, the collections related to Kalevalan traditions were mainly collected by Elias Lönnrot and other researchers of the era. However, from an early stage, archival material was also collected through surveys.

The Muurahaiset folklore society (the Ants), a forerunner of public collection operations, implemented surveys for upper secondary school graduates and other enthusiasts between 1866 and 1900 to collect words and phrases for ethnographic stories.

In 1935, SKS held a competition for collecting material to honour Kalevala’s centennial. After this, in 1936, the archive’s own folklore and traditions surveys were started through the Kansantieto journal. In the 1960s, large thematic collections were started about social phenomena such as the events of 1918, unemployment in the 1990s, the traditions of different professional and age groups, family and municipal traditions, and biographies.

What has been collected?

The collections by SKS cover the entirety of life. The archive’s collection of traditional and contemporary culture features stories told by ordinary people about such subjects as midsummer festivities, interrail journeys, LGBT+ youth life, landscape experiences and indoor air problems. The collections of literature and culture history have also grown through public collection activity and writing competitions aimed at the general public.

The collection texts are about people’s personal experiences, and they enrich the history by complementing the history text material to which they belong. Individuals’ stories are a central element of cultural heritage: your memories and experiences are also important for understanding our shared history. Many studies would be impossible without collected material and people’s willingness to contribute to various oral history collections.

Ongoing collections

In addition to remembering the past, writing oral history down is also about the description of the present and future expectations. Recording the past is important, but so is conserving current phenomena when these matters are changing the most. Currently, more than ten competititions for collecting material and oral history collections are held every year. Each collection provides valuable information about what people today think of our society’s different phenomena.

SKS organises collections both independently and in cooperation with different parties. Collaborative collections are often launched based on a collection initiative made by a community, research project or an individual, for example. New subjects are being planned all the time. You can contact the archive too and suggest a collection subject that is important to you.

How are the answers processed when they arrive at the archive?

The collection arc, from collection to publication and possible distribution of publications, typically takes from six months to a few years. In the archive, the collected answers are signed off as received, and a description of the material is entered in the database.

The material is conserved by making digital back-up copies and storing the originals in as suitable an environment as possible in the archive facilities, from where they are collected for customers or researchers to view when needed.

We process personal data as required in the EU GDPR and other legislation. We process personal data with care and protect the data being processed properly.

The archive material of SKS is used by researchers, students, journalists, local history enthusiasts and citizens interested in many different things – now and a hundred years from now.


The quoted texts are excerpts of a collection targeted at the members of SKS’s network of contributors 4 April –31 December 2017: Minä suomalaisen kulttuuriperinnön kartuttajana – Kysely SKS:n arkiston vastaajaverkon jäsenille kirjoittamisen merkityksistä (Myself as a contributor to cultural heritage – Survey of the members of the SKS archive’s network of contributors about the meaning of writing). More information is available in Finnish in the blog text Vähäisiä lisiä.