Otherland opening videos
The Otherland exhibition is now complete, finishing off the renewal of the National Museum’s permanent exhibition! The exhibition will open to the public on Monday 17 May, when the museum opens after being closed due to the pandemic. In the opening videos, which guide the viewers to immerse themselves in the exhibition’s atmosphere and understand the core of the significance of cultural heritage, children and young people from different parts of Finland bring an item originating from their home region or that of their family and place it on display in the exhibition.
Otherland explores life in the area of Finland between 1100 and 1917, and the exhibition’s name reminds us of Finland’s long history as part of Sweden and Russia. The items selected for the exhibition tell us about people’s lives in a relatable and understandable way.
In the exhibition’s opening video, children and young people put the finishing touches to the exhibition with the museum’s employees by placing collection items from their home towns on display. These items include a bear tooth, a telescope, Swedish copper coins, a toy reindeer, a Meissen coffee cup and mittens.
A bear tooth is a powerful magic charm that protects a child from the devil before their christening. It tells us about the Finnish folk religion, which remained strong even after the consolidation of Christianity. As for the telescope, it is one of the most important inventions of its time, telling us about the huge leaps made in science at the time. The Swedish copper coin is not only a heavy coin – it reminds us of the bloody events that took place on Hailuoto during the Great Wrath. The coffee cup is evidence that fashions and novelties travelled around the world with no regard for national borders. The mittens and toy reindeer are very mundane objects: they make us realise that, despite the centuries of distance between us, we have many things in common with the people of that era.
The presence of the children makes the chain of generations visible and, in a way, shrinks the distance to the past: seven children place their items on behalf of all the generations that came before us for all future generations to see.
The opening videos feature
Elina Anttila, Director General, National Museum of Finland
Maria Jansén, Director General, National Historical Museums of Sweden
Alexey Levykin, Director, State Historical Museum of Russia
Voitto, Humppila, bear tooth
Lizette, Maalahti, telescope
Myrsky and Kaamos, Hailuoto, Swedish copper coins
Penjami, Inari, toy reindeer
Tobias, Dresden, Meissen porcelain cup
Dominic, Helsinki, mittens
All the videos are available with Swedish, Finnish, English and Russian subtitles. You can change the subtitle language in the YouTube subtitle settings.
Elina Anttila, Director General of the National Museum of Finland: ‘The main themes of the Otherland exhibition are ‘humanity’, ‘faith’ and ‘we as a part of the world’. These elements are also building blocks of our future.’
Maria Jansén, Director General of the National Historical Museums of Sweden: ‘In my opinion, one of the most important tasks of museums is to make visitors and schoolchildren aware of the fact that history is a living story. This is demonstrated well in the Otherland exhibition, which lets us look at old stories and legends with new eyes.’
Alexey Levykin, Director of the State Historical Museum of Russia: ‘I hope that the visitors to this exhibition will have unforgettable experiences!’
The bear was the strongest animal in Finnish folk religion. The parts of a dead bear were believed to contain a part of the beast’s soul and power. Because of this belief, they were used to make protective good luck charms that warded off evil. A bear tooth was an extremely powerful magic charm that kept its bearer safe. This particular bear tooth once protected a small baby sleeping in a crib in Humppila. It prevented the devil from taking the child before their christening.
The telescope was invented at the start of the 17th century, when science was developing at a rapid pace. Expeditions were carried out and natural science specimens were collected and classified. With a telescope, you could suddenly see farther away than with the naked eye. The invention of the telescope also facilitated seal-hunting, which was another important source of livelihood alongside fishing on the coast. Perhaps Lizette’s great great grandfather, who hunted seals, used to squint through the telescope on the ice-covered sea, looking for the soft shapes of seals amidst the snowbanks.
A resident of Hailuoto hid these copper coins in the ground in their home yard during the Great Wrath. Most likely, they were afraid that Russian Cossacks would take all the coins, so they hid the heavy money underground to wait for peaceful times. Perhaps the stash in the ground was created on the very night when 200 Russian Cossacks killed 800 residents of Hailuoto. The creators of many buried stashes were killed, but some stashes have still been discovered, among them these coins, which were found in the yard of Iljala house in Ojakylä, Hailuoto, in 1880.
Play was play, but it also reflected the expectations of class society. Noble boys played with toy soldiers, while noble girls played musical instruments. Many children of the common folk carried around a ragdoll or self-made wooden cow. For Sami children, toy reindeers were familiar toys, as reindeers were essential animals for the Sami. Reindeer husbandry was based on the natural rhythm, and for centuries Sami children would learn skills and vocabulary related to reindeer husbandry through play.
New idea, fashions and trendy stimulants spread to the north from abroad. Coffee was a novelty that soon became popular. Coffee sets gained more luxurious and decorative forms. The most famous coffee cups came from the Meissen porcelain factory, which had invented a porcelain recipe in 1707. Prior to that, the ability to manufacture white gold had only existed in Asia.
These mittens from Ingria were knitted over a hundred years ago in Kosemkina in West Ingria, on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. Several hundred years ago, the Ingria area belonged to Sweden, then later to Russia and the Soviet Union. A great number of the residents of Ingria spoke Finnish: you could hear the Finnish language spoken in the fields, inside houses and by children while they played, for example. The history of Ingria is evidence of the fact that ‘Finnishness’ is not only tied to geographical borders. People have travelled and migrated across borders voluntarily or because they have been forced to do so. These mittens are a part of the history of Finland, the history of Ingria and the history of people.