Swedish Emigrant Institute in Jeopardy
By Professor Ulf Beijbom, former director of the Swedish Emigrant Institute
Should the Swedish Emigrant Institute Be Subsumed in a Regional Center?The administrative and economic crisis that has enveloped the Swedish Emigrant Institute for all too long and has reduced the Institute’s national and international reputation make a strong argument for cooperative relationships with proximal institutions. One such is its neighbor Småland’s Museum, a facility with which it has worked cooperatively on archival activities for a long time and where many other joint projects are possible. But there are also other established partners such as Växjö University and its active migration research project. While the University can guarantee and direct the scholarly use of the country’s most prominent emigration research collections, the cooperation with the museum would primarily focus on practical issues such as personnel, finances, exhibitions, and marketing.
Long before the municipality Växjö and Kronoberg County initiated the current investigation into the Museum Park and its institutions, the Swedish Emigrant Institute adopted a longstanding cooperative position vis-á-vis Småland’s Museum, though not on the crushing conditions that were proposed in memorandum by a previous chairman of the County Council. The Swedish Emigrant Institute has also tried to respond to the political demand of doubling the representation that the County Council and the municipality have on its board. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for politicians who, according to reports in Smålandsposten, have stated that a complete merger is inevitable. Merger mentality in the vein of outdated business models has become the mantra in the cultural-political world of Växjö!
In the swirl of rumors surrounding the currently ongoing investigation there are other ideas that are equally unacceptable to the Swedish Emigrant Institute. Such as, the Institute should be incorporated into a regional historical center, eventually to include the Kronoberg Archives, with a common board and executive director. The consequence for the Institute is that we would abdicate our role as a national and international research institute and become an archival depot for Småland’s Museum. This is directly at odds with the founding principles of the Institute, our founder Gunnar Helén’s intentions, and over four decades successful work on both sides of the Atlantic.
Is it really possible that the politicians in Växjö, regardless of party affiliation, would demand that the Institute approach the Kammarkollegiet [the national judicial board for public lands and funds] with a request for the dissolution of the Swedish Emigrant Institute’s Foundation? What kind of reaction would we receive, for example, on the national level, in Swedish America, among researchers, or at the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, which over the years has contributed 20 million kronor to the work of the Institute and the House of Emigrants, motivated in part by the standing that the Institute has nationally and internationally. Isn’t the Institute that has attracted at least one million paying visitors to the House of Emigrants and which, according to English-language travel guides, is Växjö’s foremost tourist attraction worth more?
In the local political world there seems to be an embarrassing ignorance about the law governing foundations, that one doesn’t willy-nilly dissolve a functioning foundation, that such an action demands the Kammarkollegiet’s careful investigation according to the rule to avoid disastrous precedent. Now the municipality’s leadership believes it can pressure the Institute by withholding its annual appropriation to both the Institute and the Museum! It is ominous prior to the presentation in early June of the investigation’s findings when the Investigator Susann Jonsson refers to herself in e-mails as “project leader of the Museum Park/Regional History Center.”
[Translated by Christopher Olsson, Stockton Springs, ME, USA]
People that want to keep the SEI as it is, has started a name collection, to show those authorities that this is not just a Växjö thing, and I would like to ask you to add your name to the list.
The list is found at Name collection and then go to Skriv på listan. The blanks to be filled out are Förnamn (first name), Efternamn (surname), E-postadress (e-mail), Postort (your hometown) and last Kommentar (comments).
When you h ave filled out the blanks, click on Spara (save). Then an e-mail will be sent to you, and just click on the long link, and your name will be added to the list.
They will NOT use you e-mail for anything else.
If you wish to see the list of names, just go back to first page of the Namninsamling and click on Visa namn.
The list will be forwarded to the authorities on May 31st, so don't hesitate long.
Tillbaks till första sidan!
Uppdaterad 15 May 2008
© Elisabeth Thorsell