Frida Bowallius – Time Capsules of Knowledge – Hallwyl Museum (Sweden)

Located in the heart of Stockholm, Hallwylska museet / the Hallwyl museum is a time capsule containing almost 60,000 objects, catalogued in all sorts of collections, from fine art and objects, to design and fashion, daily life objects, and various items such as postcards, poems, bookbinding tools and more.

Wilhelmina von Hallwyl (1844-1930) was one of Sweden’s great collectors of art and applied arts at the turn of the century. She supervised the cataloguing process throughout her life, and designed the exhibition of each room. The von Hallwyl couple donated the house and the collection at No. 4 Hamngatan to the nation in 1920, but they remained in residence there until their death. The museum opened to the public in 1938, and today, it has been named Stockholm’s favorite museum.

In this interview, Frida Bowallius, one of the curators of the museum, speaks about the current collaborations with researchers and artists, who benefit from this large archive, to link narratives to our present and predict tendencies of the future.

Learn more about the cataloguing process, the museum, and the collection, at:

There are several things that I find mind-boggling, for lack of a better word, when walking around the many rooms and labyrinths of this opulent castle-like structure. The first one being the amount of wealth a family must have in order to be able to privately collect such large collection, let alone the amount of catalogue workers and other house workers they employed in their daily lives. As I walk through the museum accompanied by Azmara Nigusse, program curator of the museum, she shares that the workers of the house were so immersed in the world of archiving and constantly cataloguing, that they too began their own collections and personal documentation, and one of the precious items of this house is actually the journal of the family’s driver.

The second thing that I have a hard time processing is the predictive vision, the ability of this character, Wilhelmina, to know that her archiving, collecting and cataloguing work were not for her time, but for future generations, who would benefit from this large database of physical information on… everything. When I speak to Frida Bowallius, curator at the museum, I learn that this means researchers in pretty much any subject can come to them with a question, theme, subject or investigation, and they can help link this to specific parts of the collection.

I test this theory and ask to see the typewriters in the collection. Of course they’re catalogued, and beautifully exhibited, as these were an important work of the cataloguing process.

But of course, there’s all sorts of objects, small glimpses of the life, not just of possibly the wealthiest family of Sweden at the time, but also of the workers around them. Although at the time, she was probably seen as the strangest, richest hoarder, through the years the museum’s collection has amassed validity and value, because, through these objects, people can get a better understanding of how things were back then, from the making of paper and textile, bookbinding, weaponry, utensils, and so on.

This place is especially relevant for educators and researchers, academic and artistic, who come to this place as a source of inspiration or as part of their investigation. Frida shares that one of the most recent collaborations with artistic researchers, resulted in the publication of a book titled Knowing the Ropes, which investigates the intergenerational dialogue between Wilhelmina and the three artistic researchers involved, Bryndhildur Pálsdóttir, Duriður Sigurpórsdóttir and Theresa Himmer. These three artists created objects that reflect on the palace’s late-Victorian interior, semi-transparent textiles and vitrines, among other objects, reflecting on and contributing new angles to the narrative of Scandinavian design and cultural history.

Special thanks to Azmara and Frida, and to everyone at the Hallwyl museum for their kind welcome and access to the collection and information.