The Gustavian collection as a tourist attraction, 1792‒1842

Johan SjöbergPh.D., Archivist at Uppsala University LibraryProject Archivist

For fifty years, Gustav III’s archives – the Gustavian Collection – were kept at Uppsala University Library in two locked chests, one huge, the other more like a suitcase. When the collection was opened on the 50th anniversary of Gustav’s death, the German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung noted that the locked chests had attracted the attention of all travelers for half a century.

There are several testimonies of this, not least by German and English travelers. Librarian Åke Davidsson has, in a survey of foreigners’ depictions of Uppsala, described how visitors were shown the two chests, which often gave rise to speculation about their contents. The German history professor D. H. Hegewisch also pondered why Gustav donated ”this treasure” to the library and maintained that the collection probably was safer “in this sanctuary in Uppsala” than anywhere else.

The university library has recently acquired a diary, which is interesting in this context. The author is Georgiana Bloomfield, the daughter of the English Minister to Stockholm. She described her life in the Swedish capital and the trips she made, among them, one to Uppsala. On Thursday, October 5, 1826, 17-year-old Georgiana visited the university library. She notes that “there is a very large deal box and trunk left by Gustavus the 3rd to the library and not to be opened for fifty years after his death”.

The university library has digitised Georgiana Bloomfield’s diary. It can be read online here:

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