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Finland’s past on display at Seinäjoki’s varied selection of museums

Childhood visits to castles gave me a fascination of history, and that has continued since I’ve lived in Finland. There may not be many castles near Seinäjoki, but there are many ways to explore local culture and history. Here are a few of my favourites…

Aalto Centre, Seinäjoki
The Aalto Centre is the centrepiece of Seinäjoki town centre. It was designed by world famous Architect Alvar Aalto, who started with Lakeuden Risti (Cross of the Plains) church in 1957 and finished with the City Theatre in 1987. Even with the recent redevelopment of the town centre, the Aalto Centre still takes pride of place, it is used by the people of Seinäjoki everyday and many areas are open to visitors. If you want to learn the stories and the details from an expert, then taking one of the official guided tours would be a great start.

If you want to explore yourself, in addition to regular Church services, you can often find concerts at Lakeuden Risti with performances that fill this impressive space, bringing it to life. I enjoy going up the tower to take in the panorama of the Lakeus (flat plain) for which Etelä-Pohjanmaa is renowned. If climbing the stairs is too much for you, there is a lift to take you most of the way, and it only costs 1€. The Kaupunginteatteri (City Theatre) has a good variety of shows, all in Finnish language, but maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find a Finnish language version of a familiar musical.

Finally, I have to recommend you visit the original Municipal Library, which was restored and reopened in 2015. Take-in the atmosphere and marvel at the use of light in the fan-shaped building. From here you can travel in time, through a tunnel, to the new Apila (Clover) Library to compare & contrast two beautiful libraries from two different eras. Here your kids can discover books in the reading nooks, while the parents relax in the coffee shop.

Finnish Emigrant Museum, Peräseinäjoki
In the 1800’s and 1900’s a great number of people emigrated from Etelä-Pohjanmaa to America, Canada, Australia and beyond. The Finnish Emigrant Museum (Siirtolaismuseo) in Peräseinäjoki, is a commemoration of this cultural event, and an important resource for people trying to trace their Finnish roots. There are two locations both in Peräseniäjoki, the indoor museum with a selection of exhibits from different countries. The other location is an outdoor exhibition called World of Trails (Maailman Raitti), which features four buildings that once belonged to Finnish emigrants, which have been moved to Finland (with furniture and household items) and rebuilt as a memorial to those pioneers. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon, wandering through houses from Canada, America, Australia and Russia, while taking-in the details of their lives from the last 100 years.

Provincial Museum of South Ostrobothnia, Törnävä
Located in the Törnävä area of Seinäjoki, Maakuntamuseo also comes in two parts. What once was a stone cowshed, has been converted into an exhibition space and is home to both permanent and temporary exhibitions. All around the main building, there are a total of eighteen traditional farm buildings dating from the 17th–19th centuries, which have been relocated here from around the province. I visited here with my parents some years ago without really knowing what to expect, and we particularly enjoyed the old manor house, seeing how the ‘Lord of the Manor’ lived and how small their beds were! The old village shop is also a treat, especially for the kids who hadn’t seen a shop with all the products kept on shelves behind the counter.

On My List
There are many other museums in the area that I still need to visit, and researching this article has help me prioritise that list. In brief:

Additional reading:
Alvar Aalto in Seinäjoki – several short documents in English at www.seinajoki.fi
Details of Guided Tours of the Alvar Aalto centre and MUSEUM PACKAGES visit South Ostrobothnia Travel Service or contact by e-mail matkailu@epmatkailu.fi
The Finnish Emigrant Museum

Additional Listening:
A Tour of Aalto Centre podcasts
The History of Emigration from Finland
Reconstructing Finland’s Emigrant History

This post’s title song:
The Past Still Lives On by Falconer

Mark Wiltshear
Explore Finland Radio Show

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