Staffing updates; some changes for 2018 / Henkilöstöuutisia ja vuoden 2018 muutoksia

From January 2018, Suzie Thomas will work as Professor of Cultural Heritage Studies, covering the teaching and research related to Cultural Heritage Studies for the year. Nina Robbins will become a full time University Lecturer in Museum Studies, and will take on the responsibility for delivering the Museum Studies courses for the same period (apart from Museum Security course in May, which Suzie will still teach). From February 2018 Anna Wessman starts her role as Researcher on the Academy of Finland project SuALT, and will teach one course in Museum Studies, which will be announced later.

 We’re all excited about working with the students, museum and other heritage institutions over the coming year, and wish you all the best for the holiday season!


Tammikuun alusta Suzie Thomas aloittaa työnsä kulttuuriperintötutkimuksen professorina ja toimii vuoden ajan oppiaineen opetuksen ja tutkimuksen parissa. Nina Robbins puolestaan aloittaa museologian yliopistolehtorin tehtävässä ja hoitaa suurimman osan Suzien kursseista museologian oppiaineessa vuoden 2018 aikana. Suzie vetää museoiden turvallisuuteen keskittyvän kurssin toukokuussa ja Nina hoitaa muut kurssit. Anna Wessman aloittaa akatemiantutkijan tehtävässä helmikuussa 2018 keskittyen SuALT projektiin. Hän myös vetää yhden museologian kurssin, jonka sisällöstä tiedotetaan myöhemmin.

Odotamme kovasti vuotta 2018 ja meistä kaikista on ilo jatkaa työtä heritologia-aineiden kehittämisen parissa.

Toivotamme teille kaikille erittäin rauhaisaa ja mukavaa lomakautta!

Suzie, Anna ja Nina

Museum Educator Days 2017

By Sanna-Mari Niemi

This year’s Museum Educator Days (Museolehtoripäivät), organized by The Finnish Museums Association, were held in Turku on the 21st and 22nd November. The seminar summoned together about 80 professionals from the fields of museum education and audience engagement. Two days were filled with case studies, varied workshops and discussions that left me full of ideas – some of which I’m presenting here for you, too.

Museum educators at the Old Town Hall in Turku. Photo: Sanna-Mari Niemi

The first seminar day had its common thread in solidarity, inclusiveness and empathy. Talks reflected the role of museums in bringing knowledge of diversity, and helping to create a dialogue between people from various backgrounds. In a nutshell, many of the examples encouraged museums to take an active part in tackling even the more challenging aspects of education. We were asked the question: how do museums, art and culture relate to the notion of a good life? I guess the actual question here, though, is not whether they can bring positive effects but how to measure and demonstrate these. The presentations dealt with tolerance, wellbeing through culture, and opening art collections to fresh viewpoints and queer gaze.

Ermin Škorić from Segerstedtinstitutet in Göteborg’s University shared experiences of the Tolerance project, whose mission is to spread knowledge and develop methods against recruitment of violent ideologies and racist organizations. The topic is as timely as ever. The Tolerance project works tightly together with schools which gives it continuity and outreach many museums can only dream of. The students between 14–16 years are mixed in groups outside their regular ingroups and meet on a regular basis, three times a month during one school year – sounds fantastic compared to museums, where time spans for workshops are usually very limited. At best, the practice gives pupils both a safe environment to express themselves and become more self-aware, thereby learning to resist violent ideologies. But to create such a safe space from a mixed group of people demands time. Maybe in the future something of a similar scale could be developed in a tighter cooperation between museums and schools in Finland as well? Museums provide a multi-faceted learning environment, and museum educators are experts in making the best of it. I found it surprising to hear that the Tolerance project hasn’t yet been directly cooperating with museums or heritage sites (except for the general notion that 40.000 Swedish pupils go to an excursion to Auschwitz each year). Let’s hope that the on-going Taidetestaajat (Art testers) project activating 8th graders throughout Finland can give valuable information about the needs of youth and education and give rise to ideas in the future.

Many of the speakers provided interesting web resources to projects related to culture, wellbeing and education. For instance, Taikusydän, a Turku-based multisectoral coordination centre for arts, culture and wellbeing is worth checking out. Their links to further material (projects, on-going education etc.) and a network for researchers active with these themes can be found on their web page.

Johanna Ruohonen shared some experiences of creating a queer-themed guided tour at Kirpilä Art Collection, a house museum in Helsinki that hosts an impressive private collection of Finnish art from the 1850’s to the 1980’s. This approach has given a novel perspective to Juhani Kirpilä’s art collection: besides a guided tour, the theme also shows on the walls of the house museum, in the new collections display (the museum updates its displays regularly, for the reasons of mediation and preservation). Guided tours have been popular and brought new audiences to the museum, showing that there’s a rising demand for new approaches to presenting art history and collections. Ruohonen also introduced a wonderful new initiative by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Museum Vision. It gives museums a possibility to fund their innovative projects in exhibition design and audience engagement. So, stay tuned for the first application period starting in February 2018.

One of my favourite parts of the Museum Educator Days were the 7-minute quick-presentations. They provided many concise sparks of ideas and practices – and were fun to hear. Among these pitches was an idea of using webinars as a method for school cooperation. Webinars could make museums accessible also for those schools that are located far from museums or lacking travel funds, so this is worth keeping in mind.

Workshops were mainly held at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova. Photo: Sanna-Mari Niemi

Day 2 concentrated around audience engagement and user-centered design in museums. Minna Raitmaa from Kiasma gave a presentation of Finnish National Gallery’s audience-centered design processes that seemed luxurious for many of us working in smaller museums. But many of these ideas can (and should) be scaled to fit one’s needs, and useful tools for using tight resources economically and purposefully. To be able to provide meaningful event programs, museums need to know their audiences. Or, even better, take the audience together to plan the projects from as early as possible. Outi Putkonen presented Mediatarinat jakoon! (Sharing media stories!) workshop outline of the Museum of Technology. Here, the activities were designed for a very specific target group and had clearly defined aims. What’s best, they have shared a pdf handbook of the project.

On both days, we got to choose workshops at the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum. I attended the ones dealing with augmented reality (Digital lies or time travels to the past? AR as a method for museum pedagogy) and speed dates with art pieces. The workshop on AR left me somewhat disappointed: many cool museum-related AR projects have already been done as a project, but after the projects have ended there hasn’t been enough money for actually launching and regularly updating the applications so only one of the many examples had been opened for general public. Typical, but such a shame. So, I’ll talk more about this latter workshop.

On a speed date with Nora Tapper’s artwork Fence (2017) in the 8th Turku Biennial. Photo: Sanna-Mari Niemi

Speed dating is usually something that is done in bars, but in recent years Cupids have also been pointing their arrows inside museum walls. Last summer we even witnessed a marriage of a couple having first met in a Match Made in Museum -event in the National Museum of Finland, since the bride thanked the museum in social media (speaking of museums changing lives!). Singles nights in museums have taken multiple forms, but one can well go on a speed date with art with a group of friends, a bachelor(ette) party, work team etc. Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova has produced a Speed date with art -service that is a lot of fun and a quirky way to see modern art. I enjoyed the tour led by their museum educator Janna Jokela. Here are some facilitating questions: what can you learn from a ‘person’ in a meeting of a few minutes? What would you like to ask your new acquaintance? What can you learn from their character and maybe past experiences? And most importantly: could you imagine setting up a second date?

Some ending reflections: I was particularly pleased to see that many of the presented projects were based on research, thereby seeking substance to support their methods. It was also useful to see various frameworks for assessing excellence in audience development. Whether it’s in forms of excel sheets, presentations or publications, the ability to make the results visible is vital in understanding effectiveness and justifying the need of museum education and strategic audience development – and it helps in sharing best practices with others.

I would like to give my warmest thanks to all organizers, speakers and participants for the friendly atmosphere and many inspiring ideas!

Peter Davis: ‘Reflections on Ecomuseums: theory and practice’

’eco’ – derived from the Greek ’oikos’– a house, living space or a habitat (Davis 2011: 3)

One of the main interests in Peter Davis’s research, is community museology and ecomuseums, which he has been studying since the 1990s. On 7th of November, Davis held a lecture on ecomuseums at the University of Helsinki. This text is written to draw together some of the themes he introduced. (Quotations are from the lecture.)

Davis characterizes ecomuseums as being linked to a place and thus belonging to a particular environment. They are ’community driven projects, which usually involve voluntary work with local people, helping them to develop sustainable ways of action’. Ecomuseum is a malleable concept which respons to unique contexts. The three main pillars of ecomuseums can be described as a sence of place, community involvement, and functions in a unique environment.

A sense of place

There are many variations of ecomuseums, with different emphases, but what they all share, is an idea of a place. By the means of ecomuseum, it’s possible to take a holistic approach to heritage and to the surrounding environment, and to explore the essence of each distictive area. Thus, instead of being a building, museum becomes a place, which boundaries can be defined by music, tradition, dialect or other attributes. When traditional museums can be illustrated as object-centered: emphasizing collection and buildings; ecomuseums focus on heritage: emphasizing territory, population and memory.

Community involvement

Processes of democratisation characterise ecomuseums. They can be jointly managed and owned, or they can be steered otherwise by local communities and encourage people to participate. On the contrary to traditional museums, ecomuseums depend on voluntary effort. Therefore, instead of concentrating to the final result, the process of involvement becomes the focal point. Manners of participation and democratisation give leeway to local identities to empower. Thus, community and its’ memory shift at the center of the attention, whereas the traditional museum functions around professionals and legitimate techniques.

Functions in a unique environment

The idea of the ecomuseum covers spatial as well as temporal aspects. It brings visible the interconnectedness between nature & culture; past & present; technology & individual; which are often treated as exclusive elements. This enables the preservation of both tangible and intangible heritage. The forms of ecomuseums varies with diverse geographical territories. However, a feature defining all ecomuseums is the enhancement of sustainable development: local heritage resources are safeguarded and preserved.

To conclude, all ecomuseums share the idea of place, function with local community and enhance sustainable devolopment in the unique environment. At the present, impacts and societal effects of museums are under vivid discussion in Finland. Participative practices are stressed with the purpose of increasing social and mental wellbeing. Concurrently, we are facing the biggest crisis of humankind in the form of climate change. Perhaps ecomuseums could respond to both of these needs? Wonder if we will see more variations of them in Finland at the near-future.

Overall, the lecture was thought provoking. Warm thanks to Peter Davis for visiting us!


Further reading

Borrelli, Nunzia. “How Culture Shapes Nature: Reflections On Ecomuseum Practices.(Report).” Nature and Culture 7, no. 1 (2012): 31.

Chang, Cheng. “A Narrative Review of Ecomuseum Literature: Suggesting a Thematic Classification and Identifying Sustainability As a Core Element.” International Journal Of The Inclusive Museum 7, no. 2 (2015): 15-29.

Davis, Peter. Ecomuseums: A Sense of Place. 2nd ed. London: Continuum, 2011.

Davis, Peter & … In Knell, Simon J., Suzanne MacLeod, and Sheila Watson. Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2007.

Dogan, Mustafa. “Ecomuseum, Community Museology, Local Distinctiveness, Hüsamettindere Village, Bogatepe Village, Turkey.” Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development 5, no. 1 (2015): 43-60.

Gunter, Christopher. “Ecomuseums: Challenging Temporality Through Community Reappropriation.” The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society 47, no. 4 (2017): 259-273.



Esille event coming up in November

Esille – the museum and exhibition research forum (museo- ja näytellytutkimuksen forum) – is organizing a one day event on 9th November in Ateneum. The event begins at 10.15 and ends at 15:45, and showcases recent research from people working with and in Finnish museums.

Among the speakers, University Lecturer Suzie Thomas will give a presentation (in English) on the research of the Academy of Finland project Lapland’s Dark Heritage.

The programme is as follows (in Finnish):

10.15–10.30 Tervetuliaissanat, Susanna Pettersson

10.30–11.15 Suzie Thomas: Lapland’s Dark Heritage

11.15–12.15 Sessio 1 (pj. Taina Syrjämaa)

  • Satu Savia: Tuntematon Tyyne – digitaalinen rekonstruktio
  • Riku Manni: Eriarvoisuuden estradilla. Vuosien 1851 ja 1862 brittiläiset maailmannäyttelyt ja eriarvoisuuden esittäminen

12.15–13.15 Lounas (omakustanteinen)

13.15–14.45 Sessio 2 (pj. Leila Koivunen)

  • Taina Syrjämaa: Näkymättömyyttä ja näkyvyyttä – eläimet 1800-luvun näyttelymediassa
  • Pia Koivunen: Kenellä on oikeus puhua Leninistä ja miten? Tampereen Lenin-museo Moskovan näkökulmasta
  • Anne-Maija Malmisalo-Lensu: Kävijöiden motiivien, odotusten ja kokemusten tutkiminen – Haastattelututkimus metodina Alvar Aallon talomuseoissa

14.45–15.00 Tauko

15.00–15.45 Anne-Maria Pennonen (Veljekset von Wright -näyttelyn pääkuraattori): Suurnäyttelyä tekemässä: tutkimuskysymyksistä näyttelyksi

15.45 Lopetus

All are welcome!

Ateneum, by Nyblin Daniel, 1890, kept by National Board of Antiquities – Musketti, under license CC BY 4.0, sourced via

Museotyö kantaa

Nina Robbinsin uusi blogikirjoitus

Museologian peruskurssi päättyi ja alan tietämys jalkautui noin kolmenkymmenenviiden opiskelijan voimin maailmalle. Kiitokset opiskelijoille hyvistä ja älykkäistä huomioista liittyen alan historiaan ja tulevaisuuteen. Alun historiaosuuksien jälkeen kuulimme jo pitkään museoissa vaikuttaneiden ammattilaisten näkemyksiä omasta työstään. Syksyn kuluessa saimme kuulla paljon, ja oli antoisaa itsekin siirtyä opettajan roolista oppijaksi. Suurkiitos vieraileville luennoitsijoille, jotka vapaaehtoisina halusivat jakaa museotietämystään nuorille opiskelijoille.

Järvenpään taidemuseon esittelyssä kuulimme, että pienessä museossa on käytännöllistä olla moniosaaja, olipa kyseessä sisältötuotanto tai talotekniikka. Usein roolia täytyy vaihtaa lennossa tai jopa kesken lauseen. Luennolla pohdimme, mitkä tekijät toimivat museon pienuuden mittareina. Onko vähäinen henkilökunta ja henkilötyövuosien määrä osoitus pienuudesta? Kumpaa painotetaan pienuuden mittarina enemmän, kokoelman määrää vai laatua? Mitkä ovat tässä ajassa ja paikassa ylipäätään museoiden painoarvon mittareita? Keskusteluun nostettiin esimerkiksi tilanteita, joissa pienten museoiden tulee tuottaa aivan yhtä korkealaatuista ja syväluotaavaa sisältöä, kuin suurempien yksiköiden. Museon asiakkaillehan museon pienuus ei saa näkyä.

Eero Järnefelt, Yksityiskohta teoksesta ”Idän myrsky”, 1890-l., öljy kankaalle, Hämeenlinnan taidemuseo, Kuva: Nina Robbins

Museoliiton luennon aikana saimme kuulla järjestön edunvalvontaroolista ja sen tekemästä kansainvälisestä yhteistyöstä. Suomessa on yli tuhat museota, joka on väkilukuun suhteutettuna paljon. Näissä museoissa työskentelee noin 1900 museoammattilaista, jotka päivittäin tekevät päätöksiä liittyen arvoihin, valintoihin ja painopisteisiin. Järjestönäkökulmasta katsottuna, museoiden yhteiskunnallinen vaikuttavuus on yksi painopiste, johon on panostettava. Kuulimme, kuinka onnistunut museokorttihanke on hyvä esimerkki vaikuttavuuden jalkautumisesta museokävijöiden arkeen.

Vierailu Suomen arkkitehtuurimuseossa tutustutti meidät yhden erikoismuseon arkeen. Kuulimme, kuinka museotyö sujuu historiallisessa rakennuksessa, jonka tilaratkaisut on optimoitu toiselle vuosisadalle. Käynti avasi museon laajaa arkistoaineistoa ja opiskelijat kutsuttiin tutkimaan kirjaston ja arkiston tietosisältöjä lähemmin. Kuulimme myös, kuinka museoiden välinen näyttely-yhteistyö voi saada aikaan suurhankkeita, jotka rikastuttavat näyttelysisältöjä.

Käynti Suomen valokuvataiteen museossa antoi tietoa museon erittäin aktiivisesta ja ympäri Helsinkiä jalkautuneesta peda-toiminnasta. Keskustelimme siitä, kuinka tulevaisuudessa ei ole riittävää mitata museoiden vaikuttavuutta ainoastaan museon ovista kulkevien kävijöiden määrällä tai mielipiteillä. Tarvitsemme tulevaisuudessa osallistavan museotyön arviointiin erilaisia mittareita. Museo on ottanut selvää, mikä kaupunkilaisille on merkityksellistä ja mennyt mukaan osatoimijana kaupunkilaisten omiin hankkeisiin. Näissä projekteissa museotyön rooli asiantuntijana on vaihtunut yhteistyökumppanuuteen.

Luentosarjan taidehistorian tutkijavierailu kartutti tietämystämme kansainvälisestä näyttelytoiminnasta ja näyttelyiden suurhankkeista. Luennon fokuksena oli suurien eurooppalaisten museoiden vanhan taiteen tutkimushankkeet ja esimerkkinä jo vuonna 1968 aloitettu suuri Rembrandt tutkimus (RRP). Keskusteltiin siitä, kuinka tutkimus omalta osaltaan nostaa museotyön arvostusta ja yksittäisten museoiden statusta. Samalla sivuttiin myös museoiden välistä kilpailua, jossa näyttelyhankkeita aletaan valmistella vuosia ennen H-hetkeä.

Luonnontieteellisen keskusmuseon (Luomus) vierailun yhteydessä kuulimme (museon) johtamisesta. Miten museotyö hoituu, kun emo-organisaationa on Helsingin yliopisto ja arkeen kuuluvat lukuisat lakisääteiset tehtävät. Kuulimme kuinka johtamistyön varsinainen arki alkaa, kun SWOT-analyysi on tehty sekä missio, visio ja strategia luonnosteltu. Se alkaa, kun on aika motivoida henkilöstö kohti yhteisiä päämääriä.

ICOMin luento antoi tietoa verkostoitumisesta ja siitä, kuinka ICOMin erilaiset kansainväliset komiteat tarjoavat loistavia mahdollisuuksia yhteistyöhön. Puhuimme myös laajasti museoetiikasta ja kävimme läpi ICOMin museotyön eettiset ohjeet. Todettiin, että ohjeet antavat osviittaa museotyöhön, mutta niiden on myös oltava joustavia, jotta ne todella toimisivat arjen työkaluna museoammattilaisille.

Viimeisenä teeman kuulimme Kansallisgallerian syntyvaiheista ja erityisesti Suomen Taideyhdistyksen merkkihenkilöistä. Tämä loi luentosarjalle jatkumoa. Jo 1800-luvulla suomalaisten museoajattelijoiden tavoitteena oli luoda pohja kansallisille kokoelmille, joilla olisi kauaskantoista vaikuttavuutta. Me, vuonna 2017 saamme olla tämän vaikuttavuuden osana, ja meidän tehtävänä on viedä vaikuttavuuden viestiä eteenpäin.

Museon idea ja historia -luennoilla kävi selkeästi ilmi, että kaikilla museoammattilaisilla on yhteinen päämäärä, jota ehkä missioksikin voisi kutsua. Tämä missio ei ole aikasidonnainen, vaan museotyö on kantanut vuosikymmenestä toiseen. Me saamme vuorostamme nyt olla kulttuuriperintömme suojelijoita ja suunnannäyttäjiä. Tämä on tehtävä, joka antaa työlle merkitystä. Tehtävä synnyttää kauaskantoista vastuuta, jonka muut yhteiskunnan organisaatiot ovat uskoneet meidän haltuumme. Tämän luottamuksen ylläpito vaatii arvokeskustelua. Arvokeskustelun tuloksena meidän on mahdollista tehdä oikeasuuntaisia päätöksiä liittyen kulttuuriperintöömme. Siksi keskustelua kannattaa virittää, käydä ja aktiivisesti harjoitella. Kiitos luennoitsijoille, että otitte aikaa omasta arjestanne ja välititte tämän tiedon nuorille.


Meet the Art museum -club

by Mari Viita-aho

The Art Museum Club is a group that tours around art museums in Helsinki. It is coordinated by Helsingin kehitysvammatuki 57 ry., a private organization that provides leisure time activity for people with intellectual disabilities.

Most leisure-time activities designed for these people are actualized in exclusive spaces, designated for participants only. This can result in unintended construction of boundaries preventing people with disabilities from moving in the city. The hidden curriculum of the Art museum club is to familiarize the participants with the city: to encourage movement and to make the urban environment more accessible and less remote.

Besides increasing the openness of the city space, the Art Museum Club also aims at promoting easy access to art. To achieve this, the club utilizes some of the very basic ideas of general museum education. The activities of the club are based on the idea of bringing art within everyone’s reach. In each meeting, the notion of translating feelings and images into words, is discussed.

The Art Museum Club saw Alvar Aalto -exhibition in Ateneum (Finnish National gallery). The Club evaluates: Alvar Aalto is surprisingly modern and multifaceted.

The structure of the club is simple: the group meets, visits an exhibition and discusses it. Meetings take place every two weeks. The group gathers in the lobby of the art museum to which they have to be able to find themselves. Tutors take them to a tour to an ongoing exhibition. Methods used on a tour vary from informative guided tours to visual thinking strategy -based meetings. In addition, when there is a low threshold workshop, or exhibition-related participative activity available, it can be utilized.

Sauntering exhibitions is certainly fun, but the most important part follows only after the tour: time for coffee and cake … and to reflect the new ideas imprinted in mind.

Having coffee in Ateneum after the exhibition.

More on art museum club is to come, so stay tuned!

Guest Lecture in Helsinki from Professor Peter Davis

On Tuesday 7th November at 12:00 (12:15 start) there will be a special lecture entitled “Reflections on Ecomuseums: theory and practice” by Professor Peter Davis of Newcastle University. The lecture takes place at the University of Helsinki city centre campus in Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40), Sali 4. All are welcome!

Ecomuseum philosophy and practices have been adopted as a process of conserving and utilising heritage in many countries. In this talk Peter Davis will outline the history and geographical spread of the phenomenon, describe ecomuseum theory and principles, and provide examples of ecomuseum practice within and beyond Europe.  He will critically explore these examples to assess their successes (and failures) and reflect on how ecomuseums might contribute to safeguarding a range of heritages and support sustainable development through cultural tourism.

Peter Davis is Emeritus Professor of Museum Studies at Newcastle University, UK, and is author of “Ecomuseums – A Sense of Place“.

Ei haittaa, jos kynnenaluset likaantuvat

Ympyrä on sulkeutunut ja olen 1990-luvun opiskeluvuosien jälkeen palannut yliopistolle opettajan roolissa. Oma matkani Suuressa museossa alkoi taidehistoriasta ja siirtyi konservoinnin kautta museologiaan. Takana on useita vuosia erilaisia museotehtäviä ja matkakilometrejä – ihan arjen taidetyötä. On ollut rikkaus saada tutustua kulttuuriperintöömme monen ammattialan perspektiivistä, oli sitten kyseessä kansainvälinen näyttelytoiminta ja kuratointi, luupin ja 000-siveltimen avulla tehty restaurointimaalaus, paikallispoliitikkojen kulttuuritietämys tai suuren taidekokoelman säilytys ja tulevaisuus. Lopulta omaksi tieteenalaksi vakiintui museologia. Koen sen monialaiseksi siltatieteeksi, joka nivoo loistavalla tavalla teorian ja käytännön. Ei ole tieteelle haitaksi, jos kynnenaluset joskus likaantuvat. Parhaimmillaan teoriatausta toimii museotyössä arjen motivaattorina, mutta teorian on myös tukeuduttava koettuun käytäntöön. Tällöin syntyy dialogia, jolloin teoriaverkoston tuottamilla tuloksilla on mahdollisuus rantautua osaksi oikeaa museotyötä. Tämä on asia, jonka toivon välittyvän kaikille museologian opiskelijoille. Nyt jo näkee, että heissä on paljon voimaa ajatella ja tuottaa alalle järeitä mielipiteitä. Museologia on aine, joka kiinnostaa opiskelijoita yli pääainerajojen. Jokainen opiskelija rikastuttaa keskustelua oman alansa näkökulmilla, mutta vie myös museologian tietämystä omille kollegoilleen. Ehkä voimme jossakin vaiheessa tulevaisuudessa sanoa, että museologia kuuluu kaikille!

Nina Robbins / 30.9.2017

Articles in Nordisk Museologi now available online

University Lecturer in Museum Studies Suzie Thomas and University of Jyväskylä Ethnologist Dr Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto wrote an article for the journal Nordisk Museologi in 2016, entitled ‘”Ghosts in the Background” and “The Price of War”: Representations of the Lapland War in Finnish museums’.

The article, along with the whole issue, is now available online open access.

Werner Thiede’s Hut, adjacent to the Gold Panning Museum in Tankavaara, Finnish Lapland. A survivor of the destructive period of the Lapland War. Photo by Suzie Thomas

Stemming from research for the Academy of FinlandLapland’s Dark Heritage” project, the article’s abstract is:

Museums decide which events and perspectives to privilege over others in their exhibitions. In the context of “difficult” or “dark” histories – in which the subject matter might be painful, controversial or in some other way challenging for one or more community or interest groups to reconcile with – some events may be marginalized or ignored. This may also happen due to official narratives diverting attention to other events that have come to be seen as more “important” or worthy of discussion. We explore the ways that information about the Lapland War (1944–1945) is incorporated into permanent exhibitions at five Finnish museums: the Provincial Museum of Lapland; Siida – the National Museum of the Finnish Sámi; the Gold Prospector Museum; the Military Museum of Finland; and the Finnish Airforce Museum. Despite the significant social and environmental upheavals brought about by the brief but destructive conflict, it seems surprisingly rarely addressed.

Keywords: Dark heritage, dark tourism, difficult histories, exhibition analysis,
Second World War, Lapland War, Sámi heritage, military history.

Citation suggestion:

Thomas, Suzie, & Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto (2016). ‘”Ghosts in the Background” and “The Price of War”: Representations of the Lapland War in Finnish museums’. Nordisk Museologi 2016(2): 60-77.

Some Reflections on UMAC 2017

By Suzie Thomas

Last week, the University of Helsinki together with the University of Jyväskylä co-hosted the International Council of Museums (ICOM) University Museums and Collections (UMAC) annual conference, from 5th to 8th September 2017. The co-hosted conference began the week in Helsinki, transferring via a day of travel interspersed with opportunities to see more of Finland’s natural and intangible cultural heritage, to Jyväskylä for the closing days.

The Finland organizing committee being congratulated by UMAC President Marta Lourenço for a job well done. Photo: Suzie Thomas.

The conference welcomed delegates from universities, their museums and diverse collections from across the world, with a mixture of keynote lectures, regular sessions, panel discussions and a poster session. In this short review, I will not go through the papers and sessions exhaustively but rather hope to present an broader impression of the conference as a whole.

Rather than calling for themed sessions as many conferences do, potential contributors were asked to submit abstracts and ideas to a broader overarching theme of “Global Issues in University Museums and Collections: Objects, Ideas, Ideologies, People”. This produced a broad variety of contributions that nonetheless could be categorized into different themed sessions. One of the things I noticed within this categorization was that the session that focused particularly on ethics, in Helsinki on the 5th, discussed almost exclusively the issue of human remains – for example discussing how different cultures regard not only the display but also the donation of human remains for research. In Sri Lanka, for example, the influence of Bhuddist worldviews mean that it is considered a very positive thing to leave one’s body to medical research, and audiences seem less concerned about viewing human remains in museum exhibitions than may be the case in at least some other parts of the world.

There are of course many other ethical issues that museums have to consider on a daily basis, from provenance and provenience issues through to decisions over appropriate social media use. Perhaps the strong presence of human remains discussion in this conference also reflected the nature of many university collections as being connected to medical research.

Many more presentations further demonstrated the wide range and nature of collections belonging to university museums. As well as natural history collections, with their own particular conservation and interpretation needs, many collections are of fine and contemporary art. It was exciting to see innovative ways in which these collections and gallery spaces are finding new audiences, for example through hosting live performances or other happenings in and around the exhibitions.

The continued use of museum collections for research and teaching was a major theme of the conference as well. Although not a function unique only to university museums, it is nonetheless one of the central reasons that such collections exist in the first place. We learned of groundbreaking digital uses of university collections (as with the Cabinet Project), enabling more extensive opportunities for university students and their instructors to incorporate artefact studies and research into their learning.

Museum learning and outreach was also a key theme of the conference, with several papers looking at how university museums can engage not only with the university community itself, also reach audiences outside of their parent institutions, such as young people and families. Often, consultation with and inclusion of wider communities is key. The winner of the UMAC 2017 award, the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History exemplified this idea, gaining UMAC’s recognition for the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair, in which community involvement and decision-making is central.

There were also tales of caution, with the threat of closure and disposal of collections coming to light with some sad examples from the United States. It is hoped that UMAC and other representative bodies of university museums can lobby effectively and gain public support to prevent more losses.

Helsingin yliopisto museo. Kuva: Timo Huvilinna.

My own presentation, on 8th September in the beautiful Festival Hall of the University of Jyväskylä, was co-authored with my colleague Dr Anna Wessman, and reflected on our efforts to include consultation with the wider museum community in Finland and beyond, to inform the development of the new Museum Studies courses at the University of Helsinki. An interesting thing that struck me at the beginning of the presentation was when I asked people in the audience to put their hands up first if they worked with a university museum or collection (not surprisingly, most of them), then if their university taught a museum studies programme (surprisingly fewer), and finally if their museum or collection had involvement in the programme’s delivery (even fewer). So many universities have museums and collections available to them, it seems that there is an opportunity here to take advantage of these fantastic resources also for teaching the next generations of museum professionals, and I am hopeful that more research will develop soon to gain a clearer picture of the extent to which this happens.

My final thought about the UMAC 2017 conference is simply to say what a friendly and good natured event it was. To my slight embarrassment, it was my first time attending an ICOM conference, and what struck me was the existing sense of belonging that exists within the UMAC community. There are clearly old friends who reconnect annually at these conferences and pick up their conversations, while newcomers like me are also welcomed with open arms and made to feel a part of the group immediately. Next year’s UMAC conference takes place in Miami, Florida, and voi, is it tempting to go!

Group photo from UMAC2017 conference, taken in the University of Helsinki Main Building. Original via

 (If you wish to find out more about the discussions at UMAC 2017, it is worth seeking the hashtag #UMAC2017 on Twitter).