TAM-arkiv mobilmeny

Thord Wallén – TAM’s first aficionado

Posted on March 29, 2023 by Leif Jacobsson

Translation from Swedish by Andreas Lindahl

The first managing director of TAM-Arkiv, Thord Wallén, was a real driving force. He was an educator; wrote books on the history of the white-collar movement and was also a poet.

Thord Wallén. Photo: Allan Myrman.

TAM-Arkiv (which today is TCO and Saco’s joint archive) was originally called TAM (Tjänstemännens Arkiv och Museum, Eng. eg White-collar workers’ Archive and Museum). When TAM was founded in 1985, it was to make the history of the white-collar movement (TCO and its unions) better known. The new department would also highlight the importance of various white-collar professions for the development of society. Admittedly, there had already been both an archive and a museum with a focus on the white-collar movement. But these early institutions hadn’t really been recognized on their own merits. It was not until TAM was formed that both the museum’s activities and research on the white-collar movement could flourish.

Thord Wallén became the first head of the new department. Wallén had previously been director of studies and worked at TCO’s training centre, the former manor house Bergendal (where the archive was originally located). He was passionate about trade union issues and about spreading knowledge about the history of white-collar workers (officials, civil and public servants, officers, etc). He believed that knowledge of the history of trade unions was a necessary prerequisite if trade union issues were to be taken forward.

Wallén pointed out that while the history of the labour movement was meticulously well documented, the white-collar movement and its members had been overshadowed. Today, this is even more relevant. TCO and Saco have grown and therefore there is every reason to research these organizations and the professional groups they represent. Research at TAM-Arkiv  should have a bright future in coming.

During his time at TAM, Wallén wrote a number of books about the white-collar movement and its history. Some examples of book titles are Samförstånd som strategi: Tjänstemännens organisationspolitik under 1960- och 1970-talen (Consensus as a Strategy: Civil Servants’ Organizational Policy in the 1960s and 1970s; not in translation) and Bakom Dokumenten: Femtio år av visioner och verklighet. (Behind the Documents: Fifty Years of Visions and Reality; not in translation).

Wallén also wrote poetry. His poems have been read by a large audience – mainly in the white-collar movement – and many of them have been set to music. For example, he published the poetry collection Dikter mellan två nu (Poems Between Two Nows; not in translation). This particular collection of poems was published in several editions, first in 1982 and then in 1990. The latter edition is still part of the TAM-Arkiv collections. In the preface, the author Stig Sjödin writes:

”Thord Wallén’s poems have an unpretentious tone; he does not make himself remarkable believing that he has the innermost truths, but he conveys human warmth, which at least I find difficult to live without. From the toil of everyday life, he sifts out events and experiences that illuminate and make it clear that it is not always the loud or unique that is worth paying attention to. And he clearly illustrates that a material aspiration must always be paired with a careful concern for the needs that we usually place in the heart and soul.”

Ett rikt inre liv

är att bearbeta

sina besvikelser över

det yttre livets


An approximate translation yields:

Rich inner life

is pondering well

every setback to

extraneous life’s


The above is a poem by Thord Wallén. Stig Sjödin concludes his preface with the words:

”As long as there are union representatives who write poetry and who do so with Thord Wallén’s insights and experiences present in the texts, I think there is hope for humanity. He passes on the secret code. And many should be able to receive its meanings.”

Thord Wallén at the inauguration of TAM in 1985. At that time, the department was centrally housed in the TBV building – Cardellgatan – at Humlegården. Photo: Lisbeth Rauden.

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