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Samu Nyström

Samu Matias Nyström
Born 5 June, 1975, Helsinki.

Master of Arts 2004 and Doctor of Philosophy (Finnish and Nordic History) 2013

Independent scholar, 2013-
Postgraduate, University of Helsinki, 2004–13
Entrepreneur and non-fiction author 2004–
City of Helsinki’s History of Emergency medical service of Helsinki project, researcher, 2004–2005
Finnish Medical Association’s Doctors in Finnish Society project, Project Head, 2007–2010
History of Helsinki’s Rescue Department project, Researcher, 2010
History of Finnish Civil Defence project (SPEK), writer
University of Helsinki’s Historical material, Co-ordinator 2007–2012
Medi-Heli ry’s  (Helicopter Emergency medical service) History of Medi-Heli project, researcher 2013
History of Helsinki’s Finnish Adult Education Centre of the City of Helsinki project, researcher 2013–2014

Research interests
In general: Urban history, history of local administration, history of healthcare, history of education
In particular: Urban communities and urban life during crisis, history of medical profession, history of civil defence and emergency services, history of adult education

Awards and special accomplishments
University of Helsinki’s Koskimies Foundation Award for best Doctoral thesis, 2014

Photo: Pekka Lähteenmäki
Written by Samu Nyström and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

From ambulances to fortress walls, brilliant chandeliers to murky cellars – all in a day’s work for the historian

If you ask Samu Nyström PhD what he values most in academia and the daily work of a researcher, he cites the opportunities to acquaint himself with human life in its splendid variety, seen both as objects of study and as working communities.  His research commissions have ranged from riding- sirens blaring - in ambulances, visiting the homes of Finland’s Great and Good, and documenting all kinds of places and spaces which are well and truly off the beaten track.

– And then there are the countless human destinies, communities and places that I’ve got to know through the source materials, says Nyström.

The research is a bit like reading a spy novel. In answering research questions you need to familiarise yourself with the topic and its context, then find and investigate the relevant archival material. Where more recent periods are concerned, you have to conduct interviews with people who may be important sources of information. You can’t lose the woods for the trees: the essential information from the research point of view needs to be pinpointed on the basis of documentation which can come in all shapes and sizes. When everything is set, you present your findings and conclusions to the general public.

Since completing his doctoral thesis Nyström has worked as a freelance researcher and lecturer. In 2014 he completed a work commissioned by the city of Helsinki, Oodi sivistykselle (‘An ode to education’), detailing the history of the Finnish Adult Education Centre of the City of Helsinki. Nyström is currently working on several books, slated for publication in the near future.

He is also working on postdoc research: following on from his thesis he is investigating the urban populations of Helsinki and Stockholm in the crises of the first half of the twentieth century - the World Wars and the Great Depression.

– Central to my research is the daily expression of goodwill, in other words how the dispersed members of urban populations help those closest to them with the problems that daily life throws at them, Nyström explains.

It’s not untypical for the researcher to find that each project generates a whole host of further questions, equally legitimate. So it has proved for Nyström.

– The list of projects is already swelling, and I begin to understand my senior colleagues when they sigh about how one lifetime is just not enough…

Photo: Samu Nyström.​
Photo: Samu Nyström.​


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