Christmas and New Year’s message from the President - 2016/2017.
2016 has been another active and productive year for the International Rasmus Malling-Hansen Society, and I would like to mention a few highlights as well as some activities and events in the offing.
Since the end of January 2016 we have added 47 new articles on the website – on average one per week! – many of them presenting hitherto unknown Malling-Hansen documents, among them the oldest we have ever found: from 1859 and from 1869, respectively! Others have been discovered by internet search, where an increasing number of newspapers and journals from the 19th century are being digitalized and made available to the public.
In the preparation process of the documentation each article has benefited from the wonderful creativity and skill of our webmaster, Sverre Avnskog, who has found relevant and suitable illustrations for each case and subject, thus making a very important contribution to the website, for which our Society receives praise and accolades. It is no coincidence that we are approaching 200 000 visits to our website, and undoubtedly a lot of the interest is generated by the thousands of historically and aesthetically interesting illustrations.
Research is ongoing, and at the moment I have photos of around 50 RMH handwritten documents, found at the Danish National Archives, awaiting to be processed – transcribed, comments and footnotes added, illustrations found etc. Most of these relate to Malling-Hansen’s responsibilities as principal of the institute for the deaf-mute.
Another ongoing research branch relates to Malling-Hansen’s high-ranking role at the freemason lodge, “Zorobabel and Frederik of the Crowned Hope”, where he became a member in 1877 and remained until his death in 1890 - the last two years at the ninth raking (second highest),serving as Speaker. Two of our board members, Jane Skou and Lars Mathiesen, are currently involved in contacts with the freemasons. The lodge is still existing (the oldest in Denmark) and is one of many different lodges under the umbrella name of “Den Danske Frimurerorden” (The Danish Freemasons). The freemason headquarter in Copenhagen boats a museum, an enormous archive and a library, and our hope is to uncover documents related to RMH and his activities and importance as a lodge member and as the Speaker.
As a society, we endeavour to document Malling-Hansen’s life and work in all its aspects and varieties, and one of the important branches is his groundbreaking research in the seasonal growth-pattern of the child. It is therefore extremely heartening to note that this type of research is still ongoing in various parts of the world! This is well documented in a research article “Seasonal Variations in growth and body composition of 8-11-y-old Danish Children”, published in the February 2016, Vol 79, no.2, issue of the journal “Pediatric Research” by Professor Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, professor of paediatric nutrition at department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, heading a team of 10 other researchers. We will present this article next year.
Turning our attention to the writing balls, we have two pieces of good news:
Felix Herbst, our creative member, originator of ingenuous computer animations of the writing ball, has started producing tiny 3D-printed copies of the 1878 writing ball, and such specimen can be ordered from Felix at a very reasonable price.
Our board member and treasurer Lars Mathiesen is currently in negotiations with the Copenhagen museum “Designmuseum Denmark” concerning the intended donation of his mini writing ball to the museum! This gracious idea carries potential for putting the spotlight on Malling-Hansen’s invention, but this time with the angle of Design, since his writing balls are examples of particularly elegant, beautiful and functional design, coupled with incredible mechanical precision.
Consequently, Designmuseum Danmark is a natural and good home for the mini writing ball. The museum was founded in 1890 and opened to the public in 1895. The main purpose was – and is - to disseminate a concept of quality within design. Today it is Denmark’s largest museum for Danish and international design and a central exhibition forum for industrial design and applied arts in Scandinavia. In connection with the donation, the plan is to organize a specific exhibition about Malling-Hansen, and obviously our Society stands ready in every way to assist Designmuseum Danmark with documentation, illustrations and advisory comments to that effect.
In summary, 2016 has been a positive and eventful year for our Society, and I look forward to continued expansion and development in 2017. New members are most welcome! And all members and other interested parties are more than welcome to contribute to our research or with ideas and comments about our Society and its activities.
Wishing you and your family Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Jørgen Malling Christensen
The International Rasmus Malling-Hansen Society.