Frozen Atlantis is a vision developed by Reaching for Atlantis, a research project based in the field of Public History at the University of Hamburg.
What we present here is the next step in an exciting journey. For the past three years, we have enjoyed support through the freest scholarship there may be – the Freigeist-scheme by the VolkswagenFoundation (no connection with the car builder).
This story began in 2016 with the application for ‚Reaching for Atlantis. The cultural biographies of objects under the Swedish Empire and beyond‘. Our initial plan was to explore digital ways to tell stories of and from the objects that Olof Rudbeck made carriers of meaning in his Atlantica.
Since then, a lot has happened.
We have widened our interests towards the landscapes and nature of Scandinavia that Rudbeck, too, charged with mythological meaning. Storytelling, Travel Writing, and Environmental Humanities have become more prominent in our work. And so did our orientation towards the general public as our main audience.
As an academic project, we firmly believe that we have to live the change we want to see. We venture out to connect the outdoors and the library, the public and the academic sphere. Our mission has been successful if the ways in which we reach out and what we create can inspire others to see the worlds at their doorsteps in a new light.
Reaching for Atlantis
In spring 2022 we launched our project platform Reaching for Atlantis. The cultural biographies of biographies under the Swedish Empire and beyond.
The visual interface Peek into Atlantis allows you to explore more than 500 illustrations from the context of the Atlantica. Delve into the meaning that depictions of objects or landscapes took 350 years ago, the time when Olof Rudbeck inserted them as mythically charged puzzle stones in the intellectual building he and his followers constructed.
In the storytelling section The backstories, we offer illustrated readings and video documentaries that focus in-depth on some of the most fascinating stories behind pieces from this pool.
Too long, didn’t read
Three years into the Freigeist-project, the story we have to tell is one of transformation – of an adventurous journey towards resonance, the public, and issues we sense as relevant in the 21st century.
Since an early point, we have begun developing a second platform that now complements Reaching for Atlantis.
In 2021, Too long, didn’t read. Stories of Sustenance (TLDR) went online as a platform to tell stories that resonated with us on our ways.
TLDR ventures beyond established narratives of academic writing. Up-close and personal, it grants space to the individual as well as its impressions and feelings, telling stories of wonder and awe, of search and dead-ends, and encounters that transformed us.
More than 350 years ago, a professor of anatomy at Uppsala embarked on an enterprise that changed his vision of home.
In 1679, Olof Rudbeck published the Atlantica, a monumental work that presented Scandinavia as the land the Greek philosopher Plato had described as Atlantis. It was the first of four volumes (1679–1702) – and Atlantis just the tip of an iceberg.
Over three decades, Rudbeck would skim the entire body of ancient mythology – the oldest stories told by Egyptians, Greek, Norse or Romans –, always revealing the north, its traditions and nature at their core.
Among the keys unlocking that true meaning in mythology, Rudbeck referenced known antiquities or had new ones dug out from grave mounds, mapped the nation’s oldest buildings or sent out expeditions to the lesser known parts of the kingdom, with the task to draw and measure the highest peaks of Sweden.
All this material became pieces in a gigantic puzzle Rudbeck assembled over thousands of pages. In more than 500 woodcuts and engravings, the Atlantica presented mountain panoramas, maps, antiquities, plants, and many other objects, carefully woven into a dizzying line of argument.
What Rudbeck created in decades of work was not only that deep and flattering history for which the Swedish Empire was yearning (and paid). His work opened up a gaze of deep appreciation on the place in which he lived.
So far, the rest of the continent had ridiculed the newcomer among European powers as an uncivilised chunk of ice. The Atlantica now turned Scandinavia into the utopian lands to which ancient texts had pointed under many names.
The vision Rudbeck unfolded over thousands of pages and hundreds of illustrations made the past and the present connect. Sweden’s rivers and mountains, the snowflakes falling on their slopes, the sun-lit nights of midsummer and the vortices on the coast became eloquent witnesses to a truth that was inscribed into the nature of the north, firmly and unchanging:
We are living in a world filled with profound meaning if not divine harmony – a promised land that is real and at our fingertips.
The illustrated book was the best medium at hand when Olof Rudbeck presented this vision 350 years ago.
What if we applied the medial possibilities of our times to make the stories behind landscapes and objects, hidden among thousands of pages in Latin and ancient Swedish, accessible to a 21st-century audience?
Imagine a virtual museum that allows you to explore Rudbeck’s illustrations and the meanings behind them (check!).
Imagine a platform for illustrated stories, telling of our encounters with the world Rudbeck created as we travel on the traces of his quest for Atlantis (check!).
Imagine a surrounding to freely navigate episodes from this world on a 3D-map of Scandinavia, told in film or animations.
Imagine theatre plays for children, artistic performances, public excursions and further events, all reaching out to draw you closer into the worlds we make accessible with all senses.
This is what we are creating.