Symbolernas arkeologi: Teman i en studie kring Hannes Alfvén

Svante Lindqvist


The Archæology of Symbols

Symbols are created, manifested and ultimately disappear. This essay discusses how symbols are created, but also how they are rejected, destroyed or just simply fade away. The artefacts we preserve in the belief that they were important symbols in their own time had perhaps already lost their symbolic importance. This interest in symbols is a common theme in a study of the Swedish Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfvén and in scientific research in post-WW2 Sweden on which I have been working for a long time. Some examples of symbols for various beliefs concerning science and technology are given in this essay, and two examples are discussed in more detail. The first is a large ceiling painting in one of the lecture halls of the engineering college in Stockholm, the Royal Institute of Technology. It was executed by Axel Törneman (1880–1925) in 1917. The painting ”disappeared” in the late 1950s and was rediscovered in 1993. The second example is a sculpture by Ebba Ahlmark-Hughes, erected in 1990, also at the Royal Institute of Technology. The essay tries to demonstrate how relatively difficult it is for the historian to reconstruct the processes by which symbols are created or destroyed. This is nevertheless important, particularly the latter question.

If we can determine the values a symbol signified when it was created, then its silent disappearence will tell us that these values were no longer shared by its surrounding.Tostudythedisappearnceofsymbolsmay thus also be of relevance in recreating the past. 

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