Wednesday, 20 June 2018

the national museum of finland

A while back (hence no leaves on trees), on one of my Helsinki visits, I went to the National Museum.

This was a classic combination of work and pleasure, as I needed to go and check out their VR exhibit for my thesis work and as I also wanted to check the museum out for fun. The VR exhibit is part of a room on the 1860s, Finland as an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire, and Alexander II opening the Diet of Finland in 1863. In the VR experience you can "step inside" a painting by R. W. Ekman of the opening of the Diet (the actual painting is not at the museum, though), and can listen to and interact with different characters from the painting. Altogether it lasts for about 7min. And while that is neat, the coolest part is how VR really ties the room together. You can see the throne, the Emperor's jacket, his picture, other pictures and medals and whatnot from that time in both real life and via VR, and it really does give context in a more clear and interactive way. (This is literally what I talk about at uni, so I'll be writing about this more in depth for months but not on here, haha!)

 But the rest of the museum was lovely, too! I took a guided tour, on which you get to see parts of the museum that are otherwise closed - like a "smoke hut" (literally a small house where the smoke was kept in and that some people in Finland in rural areas especially lived in until the mid 20th century. There's one near my mum's as well and it's better as it's not been fitted inside a museum, haha! But this one is definitely atmospheric and worth seeing, too.) I always find myself drawn to little trinkets, like pocket watches, jewellery, stained glass and all kinds of pretty details. But on this visit I think one of the things that caught my attention for the longest time was this tiny box that was labelled not suitable for under 18s (or 15s, can't remember!) and kind of hidden away, with a slide of pictures of war victims and other grim things like that. It was disgusting, but also fascinating and you know I'm into morbid stuff. Another, less graphic, favourite was seeing Edvard Isto's "The Attack" (there's a picture of it below) which I don't remember seeing before! And there's interesting bits of Finnish history, too, obviously as it's a museum chronicling Finnish history from the Stone Age to today. It might be more meaningful if you're familiar with at least some of the notable people, events and stories in the Finnish past, but even if you aren't there's lots to see (and learn). For example, the picture wall of the Presidents is cool. It's Harry Potter inspired, so if you wait long enough you'll see them move. I didn't know this and thought I was tripping when I got a wink from Kallio (who I'm distantly related to). And because anyone could be the next President, you can take a quick picture that is then briefly displayed among the other Presidents as the future one. Cute.

The building in itself is really interesting as well. Even though it is romantic nationalistic in its architecture and art nouveau in its interior style, apparently the inspiration has come from different eras in Finnish history (hence romantic nationalism), out of which medieval castles and churches are definitely the most noticeable. And inside there's the brilliant frescoes by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and they're in the lobby so you don't even have to pay to see them. Honestly, I've been twice already this year, and the whole museum is excellent and worth seeing if you're ever in Helsinki.



Corinne said...

The VR experience sounds so cool! I was at a museum in York the other week and they had one where you could feed dinosaurs!

Corinne x

Laura Jones said...

Corinne - it was a pretty exciting exhibit! and that sounds amazing, chicken! i should really visit york now! for research.. haha! xx

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