Accepted Paper:

Books and documents as objects of family heritage in Finnish immigrant communities   

Author:

Kirsti Salmi-Niklander (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on books and documents which are a vital part of family and ethnic heritage for the third and fourth generation of Finnish immigrants. Books and documents were brought from Finland by immigrants, produced in immigrant communities, or sent from Finland during the later decades.

Paper long abstract:

Finnish immigrant book culture in North America served many purposes: first, the immigrants wanted to maintain contacts with Finland, keep up their language and teach it to their children; second, they needed to communicate with each other in distant immigrant communities; third, they wanted to reflect the immigrant experience.

In my paper, I will focus on books and printed or manuscript documents (letters, memory books, certificates), which are an important part of family and ethnic heritage for the third and fourth generation of Finnish immigrants. My paper is based on archival and field work during the years 2013-2016 in Rockport and Lanesville on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. The very large archival collections from this community are preserved at Finnish American Heritage Center (Hancock, Michigan). Finnish immigrants were recruited to the granite quarries on Cape Ann from the 1880s. The Finnish heritage is maintained in the community, even though most members of the Finnish immigrant community no more speak or read Finnish.

Books and documents were brought from Finland by the original immigrants, produced in immigrant communities, or sent from Finland during the later decades. They are now valued as material objects, and their illustrations and inscriptions are more important than the verbal content, which members of the later generations often cannot understand. In my paper I will present some case studies of these books and documents and family histories linked to them.

Panel Home11
Books create a home: exploring books and reading practices as domestic symbols and rituals