A box tells a story – the tale of Folke and Brita Linder

The Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology housed a microscope with travel box. The exhibition ‘A Box Tells a Story’ relates the story of the microscope’s owner, Folke Linder, and the field studies in Australia that he made together with his wife Brita in the 1930s.

Dr. Folke Linders stereomikroskop utrustat med prismor och porroscher med tillhörande låda. Det tillverkades 1918 av företaget Carl Zeiss, Jena.

History students Ylwa Pettersson and Razia Asad Kandastar, who were working as volunteers at Museum Gustavianum, carrying out an inventory of the microscope collection, examined the microscope with the box extra carefully. It was manufactured by Carl Zeiss in 1918 and used for dissections. There was nothing unusual about the microscope itself except that it was the only one with an accompanying travel box. On the box were two stickers, which gave information about the owner, Dr. Folke Linder. The microscope played an important role in his work towards his doctoral dissertation on the taxonomy and biology of fairy shrimps (crustaceans in the order Anostraca).

Folke did his field work in Australia. He went there with his wife Brita, who was the first woman in Uppsala to hold a driving license and used to be saluted by police when she was out driving. In Australia, she did the driving, while Folke performed his field studies.

Brita Linder med bil och tält.


Brita Linder with car and tent


On July 1, 1936, Folke and Brita began their journey to Melbourne, Australia, from Southampton in England, on the ship Mirrabooka. Rounding Africa at a speed of 16 knots, the trip took 58 days. The stickers on the microscope travel box indicate the route taken. When they arrived in Australia on August 27, they were welcomed by the press. Local newspapers interviewed and photographed the couple. After buying a used car, tents and primus stoves, the adventure began. In her diary, Brita describes the journey. She tells how the Australian rains almost made holes in the tent and in their car, as well as how they once found a scorpion in their sleeping bag. Brita describes the dry environment and the inhabitants as well as how it was to drive a car in traffic-choked Melbourne. These little anecdotes contribute to the story of Brita, Folke, the microscope and their journey. A few months later, the couple went home aboard the ship SS Largs Bay, with the crustaceans preserved in alcohol. During the trip, Folke wrote a large part of his dissertation.

Prior to the work conducted by Ylwa and Razia, the microscope was just a scientific instrument. Now that Folke Linder's story has become known, the object has been placed in a personal context. With the exhibition, they wanted to show how an object can be persuaded to reveal an interesting and affecting story.

Utställningsmontern för en låda berättar