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Suomalainen sänky (The Finnish Bed), by the ethnologist Leena Sammallahti and the researcher Marja-Liisa Lehto (SKS 2006), is an illustrated history of Finnish sleeping arrangements, from simple benches along the wall, once common in many farmhouses, to elaborately carved and subdued luxuries yards from the upper class home. Sammallahti wanted to place the Finnish bed in the spotlight it deserves and as a result we now have an illustrated history of the Finnish bed. "Ever since I was a kid, I haven't slept very well, so the bed occupies my mind in this regard," says Sammallahti.
Her recently published book, Suomalainen sänky ("The Finnish Bed") presents the development of Finnish beds from fixed sleeping platforms to ornate sofa beds and to models that can also function as sofas and as bunk beds. The beds in the Tornio River Valley stand out in their grand says Sammallahti. "They have elegance and wealth, which I have always loved."
The seeds of the book were sown in the late 1960s when Professor Niilo Valonen, a legend in Finnish ethnology, used students to photograph the interior of the farmhouse and created an illustrated record. Sammallahti was one of the young student assistants of that time. "Once when I took pictures of furniture, a seller selling new furniture showed up. He thought I was a competitor. He could hardly believe anyone would be interested in old furniture. At that time it was used as firewood," Sammallahti recalled . With her book on Finnish beds, Sammallahti feels that she has completed an aspect of a major project that her mentor could not manage in her lifetime. Valonen's intention was to study the villages, farm, buildings and interiors of the farm that lives in Finland.
Sammallahti lives in Pori in an old townhouse originally built for factory workers. In Helsinki, she has her "travel suite", created from the old sauna building on the back of a traditional 1950's house in Herttoniemi. The furnishings in both homes give an indication of the occupation of the resident. "Actually, only the computer is new," she laughs. "As a schoolgirl I went to auctions and searched for old items." Author & # 39; s favorite bed was inherited from his grandmother. It is a model that opens from the side. The wood is carved and shows pictures of donuts and biscuits. But she usually sleeps in a pine bed from the 1920s, because it is comfortably wide.
A bed is where people are born, die and love. In the Middle Ages, it is actually written into the legislation to take a bride to bed: a marriage was considered valid only after it could be proved that a couple had spent one night under the same bed sheet. Sammallahti's memories of the bed are also growing in intimacy. "I remember how my grandmother & sister, a midwife, took me, a child who cried from sleep deprivation, next to her under sheepskin blankets. And how my hubby and I shared a Heteka metal bed frame on the hot breeze of a summer cottage."
Sammallahti has retired for a few years now but continues to investigate. "After being released from the duties of my job, I have dived into a sublime deep water of a researcher." The water metaphor is no accident. The author is a descendant of a maritime family originating in the outer islands of the Gulf of Finland, which Finland lost during the war against the Soviet Union. "As a child, I got to sail in a boat incredibly freely. During the holidays I got to go with my father in a steamboat to the ports of Europe."
Sammallahti received his doctorate from the University of Helsinki in the early 1980s. She then worked for a number of jobs, including that of the director of the Finnish Maritime Museum and the Museum in the Satakunta region. "I have seen how the museum sector grew together with Finnish prosperity. Now it is sad that it is necessary to reduce funding," she notes. "Museums are the only organizations that store old objects. And with them we talk about values and meanings - spiritual issues."
One of the Finnish museums where you can see these beds for yourself is Lyytikkälä Museum Farm in southern Karelia. Lyytikkälä farm history began in 1722 and opened as a museum in 1989. The old farmhouse has fixed benches built along the walls of the main room (tupa) while along the back wall there are beds similar to some of the ones shown above. In previous years, the owners' sons, farm workers and guest guests slept here at night (in the summer they slept in the farm's courtyards).