Background and activities

Mattias Bäckström is Associate Professor of Cultural Heritage Management at the NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He has a PhD and holds the title of Reader of History of Ideas and Science at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. In his research, he focuses on the history, theory and practice of heritage and museums, exhibitions and collections, as well as on the history of science, history of media and history of architecture and built environment.

Between 2015 and 2018, Mattias was a Postdoctoral Fellow in History of Knowledge at the Centre for Museum Studies at the University of Oslo in Norway. There he released his latest scholarly monograph: Att bygga innehåll med utställningar. Utställningsproduktion som forskningsprocess (To build content with exhibitions. Exhibition production as research process), published by Nordic Academic Press (print book in 2016, e-book in 2017) and by MTM Swedish Agency for Accessible Media (audio book in 2018).

His experiences from university research and exhibition productions form the point of departure of this monograph. The book deals with exhibiting as idea and process through historical, theoretical and practical perspectives, and discusses thoroughly a new kind of research activity that takes place in and by means of exhibition productions: exhibition-specific research.

To read more, please see the English summary on Academia.

In 2012, Mattias successfully defended his PhD thesis in History of Ideas and Science, which was undertaken at the Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion at the University of Gothenburg: Hjärtats härdar. Folkliv, folkmuseer och minnesmärken i Skandinavien, 1808–1907 (Hearths of the heart. Folk life, folk museums and historical memorials in Scandinavia, 1808–1907), published by Gidlunds förlag in 2012.

The doctoral thesis deals with, among other things, the new view of landscapes, buildings and artefacts as significant, memory-bearing structures that emerged in Scandinavia in the nineteenth century.

To read more, please see the English summary on Academia.

He has also studied at the Uppsala University in Sweden, where he wrote his Masters thesis and Bachelors thesis in Art History with emphasis on the History of Architecture and Built Environment.

Museum and conservation sector
Mattias Bäckström has a professional background in the museum sector and conservation sector in Sweden, first and foremost at the Västernorrland County Museum in Härnösand. He has worked as a museum curator and project leader of exhibitions, festivals, seminar series and concert series, but also as a researcher and investigator in exhibition, heritage and museum projects.

He is currently member of two expert groups in Gothenburg. The first expert group focuses on the new permanent exhibition at the Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft, the second group on research in collection management at the Department of Cultural Affairs in the City of Gothenburg.

In exhibition productions and heritage projects, from the mid-1990s and up until today, Mattias has cooperated extensively with institutions, for example with the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Swedish Exhibition Agency, the County Administrative Boards of Sweden, the Museum of Gothenburg, the Medical History Museum in Gothenburg, the Sundsvall Museum, and the Regional State Archives in Gothenburg and Härnösand. He has also collaborated with individual artists, musicians and researchers as well as with local and regional institutions, organisations and societies.

To see a selection of the curatorial and conservation projects, please visit Mattias Bäckströms webpage on Academia.

Ongoing research
In his ongoing research work, Making things matter. Meaning and materiality in museum displays, Mattias Bäckström examines how museums in Berlin, Copenhagen, London and Stockholm (from c.1880 to c.1920) used and reshaped concepts of knowledge in and by means of exhibited collections and permanent exhibitions. How did these museums shape art history, cultural history and prehistory?

The other ongoing research project, Mediating medicine, is a co-operation between the Department of Cultural Sciences at the University of Gothenburg and the Medical History Museum in Gothenburg. Writing together with the museum director and the museum pedagogue, as a way of practicing a museum-specific approach in scholarly research, the contribution of Mattias and his museum colleagues is a media-historical study of the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg from a media-system perspective.

Academic interests

  • History, theory and practice of heritage and museums, exhibitions and collections.
  • Heritage, history and memory.
  • Views of history, ideals of society, and production of knowledge in and by means of museum, exhibition and conservation practices.
  • Images, objects and spaces, and maps, buildings and landscapes from historical and theoretical perspectives.
  • Exhibition production as research process.

Research networks

Teaching
Mattias Bäckström is lecturer and supervisor in Cultural Heritage Management, Heritage Studies, Museology and Exhibition Studies at the NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Scientific, academic and artistic work

Displaying a selection of activities. See all publications in the database

Journal publications

Books

Part of book/report

  • Pierroux, Palmyre; Bäckström, Mattias; Brenna, Brita; Gowlland, Geoffrey; Ween, Gro Birgit. (2020) Museums as Sites of Participatory Democracy and Design. A History of Participation in Museums and Archives. Traversing Citizen Science and Citizen Humanities.

Report/dissertation