Helsinki: Museum of Finland (part 2, day 1)

After visting the Barbie: The Icon exhibition we made our way through the following permanent exhibitions. Each exhibition is a chrologically history of Finland, which starts from its early prehistoric beginnings, through the Middle Ages and until its modern modern national story. Although you don’t have to see each exhibited in this order, I found doing it this way really gave us a great overview and appreciation of Finnish history. Probably the heaviest content and largest exhibition the Realm, which took us through the Middle Ages to pre-industrial Finland. But the last exhibit of Finland’s more modern history was fun and interactive. They do have audio guides and all the text panels translated in Finish, Swedish and English. If I had more time I would have loved to do a guided tour and of course see everything else we missed. If you want to know more visit my previous post on the National Museum of Finland.


The first exhibition we visted was the Prehistory of Finland. We entered the exhibition there were a couple of text panels, which gave us an good indication to what we were about to see. They stated “Finland was under kilometres of ice. 18,000 years ago it began to melt. The first people arrived to the present area of the Nordic countries after the ice retreated 10,000 years ago“. Then we arrived into a stark white room, which looked like an underground cathedral. This exhibition wasn’t very big, but it did give a good overview of how people lived and what evidence remains from the Stone Age through to the Iron Age. It wasn’t the best exhibition for a child that couldn’t read, but there were a couple of interative features.

This neck ring is the gold torc from Nousiainen, which was found in Nousianinen, south-West Filand in 1770. It is one of the finest Late Roman Iron Age artifacts discovered in Finland. It was made by a early Scandinavian goldsmith in the 3rd century CE. Its is decorated with the head of a snake or dragon. It was probably buried as an offering.

This woman of Eura was buried in Luistari and in one of the largest burial places in Finland. The burial site was discovered in 1969 and she was originaly buried in the 11th century Viking Age. She would have been about 45 years old and was betweeen 165-170cm tall. She was the mostly richly buried woman in the burial site. Her dress was adorned with round buckled knobs on the shoulders, a cloak booch, bronze chains. She also wore a decorated bronze=plated knife sheath at her waist, broad spiral bracelets, four rings and a necklace made of glass beads, 12 silver coins and 2 silver pendants. Bronze was believed to protect the bearer and promote fertility for woman.

Below are some of the finds from the Susiluola Cave in Ostobothnia, West Finland. This cave was excavated in the 1990s and if the discovereries coul dbe proven to be made by humans, it would radically change Finland prehistory. The finds from this cave may prove that Neanderthal dwelling there more than 100,000 years ago. Although some archaelogiset believe they were cauced by natural processes. The bones and metal artefacts below were found in a waterlogged cemetary in Levänluht, Southern Ostrobothia. It is unknown why they were buried in water.

The Realm

Next we visited The Realm exhibition, which is exhibits Finnish history under the church rule, Swedish secular rule and the annexiation by the Russian Empire. This covers the 13th to 19th century, so it is quite a large exhibition, which is covered over a series for spaces.

The first room we entered was the Lutheran Church Room. This space depicts many of the religious artwork were created as a result of the integration of the adminsitration and development of church and parish activities in Finland and Sweden, during the during the 17th century. During this period the ranks of clergymen grew and their levels of education rose. Under the rule of Bishop Johannes Gezelius the Elder in Turku during the late 17th cenutry, regulations on the care of the interior of churches as established. They were to be clean and contain objects that fit the dignity of the divine service. This required old wall paintings, which often insited superisistions to be to be painted over. Benches and galleries were also introduced, as well as alter rails with kneeling benches, coats of arms (artistocratic burial) votive tablets, tablets and organs. Reredos were also replaced by framed altarpieces.

This was probably my favourite space as I am quite a fan of religious artwork. These pieces were quite different to what I have previous seen in western European museums and it is also quite wondefully creepy. There were quite a few depictions of Saint George with the dragon, which I hadn’t seen before.

One of the stand out pieces was the Altarpiece from Kalanti Church. It was made by ‘Meister Francke‘ of the Dominican borthers in Hamburg Germany in the 1420s. It is told that it was found floating in the sea by the inhabitance of Kalanti in west Finland and it may have previously belonged to the Turku Cathedral.

The central sculpture tells the story of the life of the Virgin Mary. From the birth of Jesus, to Circumcision of the child Jesus in the temple, Coronation of the Virgin Mary on ther death bed, her funeral procession and the Virgin freeing Knight Theophilus from his pact with the devil. The side panels depict the legend of Saint Barbara.

The next couple of spaces depict Finish history under Swedish rule. It is believed that the Swedes carried through First Crusade into Finland at the begining of the Middle Age period in 1150s. Finland then became a permanent part of Western Europe and the emerging Swedish empire. The Catholic Church and Western Europe influenced and introduced literacy culture, churches, castles and towns. Six towns were founded, including the most important Turku (which we visited next).

The Vasa family ruled in both Sweden and Finland during the Middle Ages. In 1523 Gustavus Eriksson became King of Sweden. The male lined ended in ended in 1672 with Johan Casimir, King of Poland. The female line ended in 1689 with Queen Christina of Sweden.

There is hardly any medieval furniture that still exists from the Middle Ages. Finnish people lived in chimneyless wooden cabins, sparsely furnished, with wooden tables and fixed benches along the walls. Chests, boxes and wall cupboards were used for storage. For dining, most vessels were made of wood and people ate with their fingers or with their own spoon.

Sweden was the leading European power during the reign of Gustavus II Adolphus to the death of Charles XII, which is also known as the era of Baroque and supremacy of nobility. Joint guilds of carpenters, painters and glaziers were founded in Turku in 1633. Baroque furniture in Finland was influenced by French tastes which was filtered through Stockholm or more modest styles of the English and Dutch. Finish cabinet makers made chairs and tables in English-Dutch style; wardorobes and chests were more North-German and Dutch style. French Baroque style was more utilised for inlay and fixed upholstery. The East-India trade also brought custom rattan or wickerwork chairs and backrests. However, the most extravagent furniture was imported from Sweden.

The following space depicts the furnishings of the burgher class or bourgeoisle, who rose during the Middle Ages from the craftsmen and artistans. In 1634 the Estate of burghers was giving an offical stuatus. By the 18th century this class had gained greater economical and political power then the noble class. The wealthiest of this class were the seafarers and owners of ironworks and manufactories, and tar merchants from the north. During the 18th century the owners of ironworks built their own fashionable mansions and villages were built around their factories. Shipowners were also very affluent and had residents in town as well as manisions in the countryside.

The following spaces depict the Drawing Room of Jakkarila Manor, the Enlightenment and the Romanticism and the Home. By the late 18th century, the line between noblity, affluent burghers and clergymen began to blur. Many built manor homes in French Rococo classicism and were largely influenced by the designs in a book published by Carl Wijnblad in 1755-56. In the early 1760s, Anders Henrik Ramsay, the Governor of Savo and Kymenkartano, built a mansion on the estate of Jakkarila (Jakari) in accordance to Wijnblad’s book. During the Rococo period, there spaces were divided between private and representational. Thus, more attention was given to the interior for representative rooms, ei the gentlemen’s room or the drawing rooms. The walls and ceilings had painted wallpaper and there were also carved panels along the walls, doors, window frames. Through the Enlightenment and Romanticism period the interior styles evolved to also represent a womans hand in design.

Before coming to the last section of this exhibition, there was an installation of a old Chimneyless cabin from the village of Pajasyrjä in Jaakklima.This is a typical dwelling that Finn’s used since the early Middle Ages, but many continued to live in them until the early 19th century.

The last space represents the Russian Order, when many Finn’s served the Imperial Russian Army. Many Finn’s rose to positions of general or admiral and as a result strengthened the Russian Emperors trust with neighbouring Finland. In 1863 Emperor Alexander II visited Helsinki and its people looked forward to its visit. The had remained an autonomous duchy, unlike other parts of the Russian Empire. The Emperor did authorise a number of reforms on his empire, which were carried out in Finland by Finnish Estates. This meant that Finland became a separate state connect to Russia and thus idea of the Finnish nation was born. This was high point in Finish history, due to infrastructure of railways and muncipalities, parishes and schools were established and Finnish language was improved. However, soon after a famine would widen the gap between the rich and poor.

Story of Finland

The last exhibition we saw was the Story of Finland. This was probably my least favourite exhibit, probably because I was quite burned. The content wasn’t as interesting for me as I lacked the nostaglic memories of Finland. However, it was more interactive, which meant it was alot more fun for my kid. Probably my favourite part of this exhibition was the Sauna room, which showed an old video of Finns sauna culture and the space with the widescreen which showed photos of Finns over the past 100 years.

This exhibition set the scen of the years of unrest, whichi proceeded the golden age of Finland’s national culture from the end of the 19th century. The Finnish language enjoyed equal status with Swedish and artists, composers and painters and athletes contribute a strong international image of Finland. However, this was followed by oppression under the Governor-General Bobrikov, who saw progress and opitism as a poltical threat. Many rights and privilages that Finns had previously enjoyed were revoked and civil disobedience proved insufficent. Eugen Schauman murders Bobrikov, the Emperor losses the Russo-Japanese war and activists in Finland start importing weapons from abroad. From here the exhibition examines Finlands struggle for independence and some of the national iconic pecularities, such as the love as sauna, Moomin and heated overalls.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! We have one more day in Helesinki and then we take boat to Estonia and a roadtrip through Finland.

Helsinki: Museum of Finland (part 1, day 1)

On our first day in Helsinki we wanted to get a little introduction to Finnish history, so we spent most of the day at the National Museum of Finland. Since I took so many photos I will dedicate my next couple of posts to this museum. These exhibitions I will take you through today, were mine and Octavia’s favorites. They were the temporary exhibition, Barbie: the icon and Workshop Vintti.

The National Museum of Finland (Kansallismuseo) is located a short distance (walking) north of Helsinki city center. It is housed in an large castle-like building, which is very Finnish in its architectural design. It was designed by architects Herman GeselliusArmas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen and built in 1905-10. The exterior is National Romanticism and the interior is Art Nouveau. Some of the exterior features that we saw as entering the museum was a statue of Finland’s national animal, the brown bear; and a bullet hole left in the glass door from the civil war of 1918. Upon entering the museum we saw the beautiful ceiling frescoe, depicting that national epic Kalevala. It was painted by Akseli Gallén-Kallela in 1928 and are based on the frescoes painted by Gallén-Kallela in the Finnish Pavilion of the Paris World Fair in 1900. Another beautiful feature was the stain glass windows in the main staircase.

The museum is opened Tuesday to Sunday (or daily in the summer months), from 11am to 6pm/8pm (on Wednesday). The ticket price on our visit was 12 Euro for an adults, 9 euro for concession and free for people under 18. We did pay a little extra on our visit to see the temporary Barbie exhibition. The museum also offers guided tours, workshops, children’s birthday tours for additional fees. There are also free audio guides available for some exhibitions. If you get hungry you can visit the cafeteria inside or go across the road to Café Huvila like we did.

The museum presents Finland’s history, chronologically from the Stone age (1700s), up until today. It is split into six sections, which include Treasure Troves, Prehistory of Finland, The Realm, The Land and its People, Exhibition on 20th Century, and Suomi Finland 1900. We weren’t able to see all of the exhibitions, but we did get around to see
Finish Prehistory, The Realm, Story of Finland, as well as the kid’s Workshop Vintti and the temporary exhibition, Barbie: The Icon.

Barbie: The Icon

The first exhibition we saw visited was Barbie: the Icon, since it was located on the first floor, across from the foyer. I didn’t plan on seeing this exhibition, but I also had to see it. When I was a growing up, Barbie was my favourite toy. I will never forget my 10th birthday when I got the Barbie Fold n’ Fun house, the convertible and a extra Barbie cloths. I haven’t encouraged Barbie for Octavia at all and she prefers to play with animal toys. But I could see she was just as mesmerized by all those beautiful dolls in this exhibition as I was.

This travelling exhibition was curated by professor Massimiliano Capella and produced by 24 ORE Cultura and Mattel. It was exhibited in many European cities, including Milan, Rome, Bologna and Madrid. This exhibition tells the story of Barbara Millicent Roberts aka Barbie. It features 450 original Barbie Dolls, which were from private collectors and Mattel. The exhibition is split into eight theme, which define the life of Barbie over the past six decades. There is no denying Barbie is symbolic figure, who is constantly evolved to represent the modern woman.


This first display shows the evolution of Barbie from from 1959 until 2016. She began as a teenage fashion modern and has transformed over time to what we see today. Over time different moulds were used for Barbies head and body. This displays shows fifteen dolls most important changes that have taken place over the past few decades.

What a Doll…from Teenage fashion Model doll to Fashionista

This next display is presents the Barbie’s life as a fashionista and throughout the different decades. It demonstrates that Barbie fashion reflected the variety of different trends that appeared in each decade. She also had optional wardrobes editions that could be purchased separated, which also made her very versatile.

Fashion and Vintage Silkstone Barbie Dolls

In 2000, the Silkstone Barbie was launched, which embodied the haute couture elegance of the 50s and 60s. It was created by the designer Robert Best. These Barbies were made of silkstone, which are are type of soft plastic, which looks like porcelain. These Barbies were altered to bring back the facial features and makeup of the 1959 Ponytail Barbie. Their hair is made of superior quality fiber. These dolls were dressed in lingerie, day wear, and evening gala wear that reflected old Hollywood styles. They also have a permanent pose, with their right arm on their hip and left leg slightly bent and their feet had a higher arch for very high heels. These Barbies are representative of Barbie as a icon of seduction.

Barbie on the Catwork

The next display shows the fashion designer doll collaborations from 1985 with high-end designers. Some of which include BillyBoy*, Oscar de la Renta, Moschino, Versace, Dior, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood, Prada and Givency. The first designer to draw sketches for Barbie was BillyBoy* in 1984, which lead Nouveau Theatre de la Mode (1985) and Feelin ‘Groovy Barbie (1987) (see below). Oscar de la Renta also began collaborating with Mattel, to produce four haute-couture dresses, which could be purchased separate to the doll (1985). By the late 80s most of the biggest fashion designers created collections that were dedicated to Barbie.

The Barbie Family

This display shows how Barbie enjoyed spending her time with family and friends. Her family was built-up over time to include give younger sisters (Skipper, Tutti, Stacie, Shelly, little Krissy), a brother (Todd) and two cousins (‘Mod’Francie and Jazzie). She also had a best friend Midge and her legendary boyfriend, Ken. More doll family and friends would appear overtime and disappear. Over the years, Barbie, her friends and family would transform, as did their playset homes, cars and accessories and they also would acquired some pets.

I can Be…Barbie Careers

Perhaps my favorite thing about Barbie when I was growing up is that she could be anything. Barbie has had over 180 careers in her 56 years. This has showed little girls that they could be whoever they wanted to be. Shes has paid homage to the first female astronaut, Valentina Tereskova, enlisted in the army and been President of the USA.

Celebrity and Art Work Barbie Global Icon

Besides being a fashion icon, Barbie has also embodied a variety of legendary female figures, including pop culture and movie personalities, inspiring women and royals. These are perhaps my favorite Barbie dolls, as their facial features are altered to represent the character and they are so nostalgic.

Barbie World Citizen: The Dolls of the World

The last display is another one of my favorites, as its represents all the different International dolls of the world. I actually collect dolls when I travel and I can only dream to have dolls as beautiful as these. These dolls were launched from the 80s and were designed by Antonio Russo. They represent countries from nearly every continent. I didn’t see one from Australia, but they do have the Australian dolls the Barbie website.

Workshop Vintti

Our last stop at the museum was Workshop Vintti, which is an interactive exhibition, aimed at kids. Some of the activities include harnessing a horse, pulling a cart and building a log cabin. Probably the most popular attractions was the large horse, general stores and build a cabin. For older kids and adults there are plenty of text in and around the activities, which gives more meaning to the activities and theme of this space.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through through the Barbie exhibition and Workshop Vintti. Next I will take you through the exhibitions that represents Finland’s history to present.

Are you a Barbie fan? I have you seen this exhibition?