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The first museum in Finland, The Ethnographic Museum set up by the University of Helsinki, was established in 1840, with others opening across the country thereafter, thanks in no small part to the growing national awakening of the time, as exemplified by the development of a Finnish language intelligentsia and the creation of the Finnish Party in politics. Today, Finland's national central museums are The Finnish Museum of Natural History, which is managed and owned by Helsinki University, The National Museum of Finland, and the Finnish National Gallery which comprises Ateneum, Kiasma, and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.

At the regional level, there are 20 provincial museums of cultural history and 16 provincial art museums in Finland, responsible for promoting and guiding museum activities in their own area. In addition, there are numerous local museums and almost every population centre of any note will also have at least one art gallery.

The following is by no means a definitive list, but is meant more as an introduction to the most popular, most visited, museums, galleries, and cultural centres in Finland. 

The Finnish Museum of Natural History

Located in Helsinki, The Finnish Museum of Natural History is an independent research institution functioning under the University of Helsinki, and one of the three central national museums in Finland. It is responsible for the national collections in its fields, which include botany, zoology, geology, biology, and paleontology.

The National Museum of Finland

Situated in a building designed by architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen in central Helsinki, The National Museum of Finland presents Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present day, through objects and cultural history in permanent exhibitions divided into 6 parts. These are: The Treasure Troves, collections of coins, medals, orders and decorations, silver, jewellery and weapons; Prehistory of Finland, the largest permanent archeological exhibition in Finland; The Realm, which explores the development of Finnish society and culture from the Middle Ages 12th century to the early 20th century; The Land and Its People, Finnish folk culture in 18th-19th centuries; and The 20th century exhibition which presents independent Finland and its united and international culture.

Ateneum Art Museum

Belonging to the Finnish National Gallery, the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki houses the largest collections of art in Finland, from the Gustavian period of the mid 18th century to the modernist movements of the 1950s, and includes the best loved Finnish masterpieces. The museum also houses a handsome collection of international art, featuring works by such masters as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Fernand Léger and Marc Chagall.

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Located in the heart of Helsinki, and part of the Finnish National Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is an open forum for the exchange of opinions and a continuous redefinition of art and culture. Kiasma's programme includes exhibitions presenting Finnish and international contemporary art, collection displays, performances in the Kiasma Theatre, workshops, seminars and lectures.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum

The third museum belonging to the Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki is the only museum in Finland which specialises in old European art. Finland's most valuable and internationally significant paintings of Old Masters are displayed here in a permanent collection which comprises about 20 private collections bequested to the museum.

Cygnaeus Gallery

Located in the summer villa of Fredrik Cygnaeus in Kaivopuisto Park, one of the few surviving wooden buildings in downtown Helsinki, the Cygnaeus Gallery is the oldest art museum in Finland. The permanent collection numbers almost 450 pieces, of which around 100 paintings, sculptures, and drawings are on view. In addition, the gallery puts on small-scale exhibitions, lectures, concerts, and other public events.

Designmuseo

A specialist museum in Helsinki, DesignMuseo selects and maintains a design collection, and is responsible for research and documentation in its field, and for holding exhibitions on design history and contemporary products. The museum also organizes international exhibitions on Finnish art and design. DesignMuseo was founded in 1873 as a study collection for the arts and crafts school. It has operated in its current premises, a building designed in 1894 by architect Gustaf Nyström, since 1978.

The Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

This open-air museum is situated on an island in Meilahti, four kilometres from the centre of Helsinki, reached easily by taking the 24 bus. The museum comprises some 87 different buildings which display traditional Finnish life through the cottages, farmsteads, and manors of the last 400 years which have been relocated from all over Finland. These buildings and their interiors reflect the traditional lifestyles of crofters, peasants, farmers and gentry from the 18th to the 20th century.

Arktikum House

Located in the capital of Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi, Arktikum House is a museum, a science centre, and a popular cultural venue, providing unique insights into the way of life, history, and culture of Lapland and the Arctic regions of northern Finland. The Provincial Museum has a permanent exhibition entitled 'Northern Ways', presenting Sámi culture as well as the life of moose and bears in the wild, and the mythology that surrounds them, and small-scale models of Rovaniemi from 1939 and 1944. The University of Lapland's Arctic Centre has a permanent exhibition entitled 'The Change in the Arctic' divided into 4 sections. These present the Arctic in a highly visual, interactive fashion; provide information on how humans, animals, and plants have adapted to the harsh environment; detail current changes in the Arctic; and question visitors on the Arctic's future.

The Aine Art Museum

Finnish expressionism from the beginning of the 20th century, the Prisma-group from the 1950s and 1960s, and the arts of Northern Finland are all well represented in the permanent collections of the Aine Art Museum in Tornio, where there are some 2,300 pieces on display. In addition to the basic collections, the museum hosts 4 to 5 temporary exhibitions annually, mostly from the field of visual arts but also from the fields of photography and industrial arts.

Walter Runeberg's Sculpture Collection

Located on Aleksanterinkatu in Porvoo, in the house adjacent to the home of J.L. Runeberg (the National Poet of Finland), is the Walter Runeberg Sculpture Collection. Runeberg was one of the most important Finnish sculptors, and the collection includes more than 100 of his works, including the drafts for his monumental works of art, plaster sculptures, and a large portrait gallery.

EMMA | Espoo Museum of Modern Art

Set up by the Espoo Art Museum Foundation in 2002, EMMA is located in the WeeGee building in the garden city of Tapiola in Espoo. With 5,000 square metres of exhibition space, it has the largest area of any museum in Finland.As well as displaying its own collections, which include the City of Espoo and the Saastamoinen Foundation Art collections, EMMA has changing exhibitions of contemporary and 20th century art from Finland and abroad.

The Saastamoinen Foundation Art collection comprises more than 1,900 works of Finnish classical modernism and contemporary art (Finnish and international), most of which are on permanent exhibition. The City of Espoo collection includes work on display in municipal offices, buildings, and in outdoor areas. Concentrating mostly on Finnish contemporary art, part of the collection is on display in the museum.

 

Turku Art Museum

Playing a prominent part in the artisitic life of Turku since 1904, Turku Art Museum is now housed in a modern museum designed by architect Gustav Nyström, where it exhibits contemporay, modern and classical art from Finland, Scandanavia and the Baltic region. Its collection contains approximately 6,000 works, covering the period from the beginning of the 19th century up to the present day, as well as a selection of Scandanavian art from the 18th century up to today. There is also a collection of graphic art and drawings by Finnish and international artists.

The Maritime Museum of Finland

Located in coastal city of Kotka, the ultra-modern Maritime Museum of Finland houses numerous exhibitions devoted to the sea and the regions longstanding seafaring traditions, including collections from the Maritime Museum of Finland and Museum of Kymelaakso. The museum is housed in an extraordinary building designed by Professor Ilmari Lahdelma, the shape of which reflects the motion of the seas, with facades that depict the glimmer of the sea's surface. There are notable ships on the museums mooring quay, including the Icebreaker Tarmo, which is the oldest of its kind in the world, and the coast guard vessel Telkkä.

Sara Hildén Art Museum

Maintained by the City of Tampere, the Sara Hildén Art Museum is the permanent home of the Sara Hildén Foundation's extensive collection of modern art. The collection is quite comprehensive, consisting of around 4,500 works which present a broad cross-section of the developments in modern art over the last 40 years. The museum also arranges temporary exhibitions which include prestigious overviews of international modernism.

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