The project is collaboration between researchers from the fields of History and Material Culture Studies (Anthropology and Archaeology), together with Museum and Archival Studies. The focus of the research is twofold: Firstly, emphasis is put on exploring the phenomenon of “archive”; how an image of the past is preserved, how people and their material environment are documented in historical sources. Second, focus will be on how the “archive” as a phenomenon and analytical concept has been employed in research within humanities and social sciences. Here we will emphasise how material culture has been archived; what things did people own according to different archives, and how were they used? How did people relate to things, what was their ideological value and everyday significance? Different archives of material culture will be counter posed, thus revealing opportunities to scrutinise the various ideas about the past from a new perspective, and simultaneously providing a new foundation for reviewing academics and scholarship. A fundamental notion behind this approach is the view that material culture and an insight into the materiality of the everyday enables a different and more nuanced perspective on how people structured their lives and identities, and how their material surroundings contributed to that structuring.

This project is situated on an intersection between Material Culture Studies, History, and Museum and Archival Studies. Its main scholarly aim is twofold; a) to investigate the material world of the Icelandic population in the late Modern Era as this is represented in archives of written and material form, and the different relations and interactions between people and things implied in these archives with both macro- and micro-methods; b) to explore the tensions between these different archives, asking how they reflect the material past, and how the possible discrepancies between them may be dealt with. The approach is multidisciplinary and the archives employed are indicative of this.

The Centre for Microhistorical Research

The host of the project is: The Centre for Microhistorical Research at the Institute of History at the Department of History and Philosophy, University of Iceland (microhistory.org) chaired by Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon (PI).

The Centre for Microhistorical Research has its focus on independent research using microhistory methods, publications and distribution of microhistorical monographs and articles, research on different kinds of personal sources which have been collected by manuscript departments around the island for the last 150 years. Its aim has been to develop a new methodology and conceptual framework for microhistorical research in the future. The Centre promises to be an important link to the outside world of microhistorians and its goal has always been to become an alternative for scholarly debates. At the same time, it has also emerge as a centre for international information about research, teaching and meetings related to microhistory. This kind of centre is nowhere to be found in the world today. The Centre will run an international database and a home page which will contain information about microhistory. The name of the web page is microhistory.org and it will be sponsored by the Centre for Microhistorical Research.


Microhistory.org is run by the Center for Microhistorical Research at the Reykjavik Academy in Iceland. This is a website for the various projects about microhistory, including bibliography on published microhistorical works, studies on memory and postmodernism. This website will also include refrencees to recently published monographs and articels with a short introduction about its context. The plan is to add informations on up and coming conferences, seminars and meetings. Scholars who are using microhistory in their research are encouraged to add their names to a list, which will be found on the website, of currently active microhistorians with a reference to their own homepage or informations relating to their work. Other informations are also welcomed on the website, like course syllabus on microhistory, books or articles which are not to be found in the bibliography, or new material on microhistory which individual scholars would like to share with the rest of the world. The plan is to make an attempt to define what microhistory really is with an ongoing discussions about the concept. All input is welcomed.

Other partners

University of Iceland


The National Archives of Iceland


National Museum of Iceland


The Icelandic Center for Research