The best museum in Rovaniemi is the big Artikum museum which is centered around a long glass corridor of 172 meters you can walk down the corridor and head into the different parts of the exhibition. During the winter the corridor is supposedly the best place in the city to go and see the northern lights – though during the summer there is no hope of seeing the lights. The museum is the main place in Finland to spread the knowledge of the Arctic region.
The exhibition has a focus both on the Arctic in General but naturally there is a special emphasis on Finland in the arctic. One hall has the story of Petsamo – this is a region of Finland which probably been forgotten in the rest of the world. But for the interwar years this area was a part of Finland – the area is located to the immediate east of the northern part of Finland and Norway. After Finland got its independence in 1917 they manage to conquer this area in the wars following the Russian revolution in 1917. After the Second World War Finland lost the area to the Soviet Union and the border moved back west.
The time between 1939 and 1945 were a period of war in Finland. First Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union on 30 November 1939. The Soviet Union expected an easy victory – but it turned out the Finnish troops were able to put up a stiff resistance to the attack. The Soviet had a vastly superior force – but they used standard tactics while the Finnish troops took advantage of the winter weather and engaged in guerilla warfare using skies to attack the soviets by surprise in what they thought were impossible to reach. The Soviets had huge losses but in the end Finland had to sue for peace. When the Germans attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 the Finish army thought this was a change to regain the areas they had lost and engaged the war until Finland sued for a separate peace on 4 September 1944 and a peace was settled on 19 September. There is a pretty big focus on this period of the history and the war up in the northern part of Finland.
Another part of the exhibition is about life in the arctic and what wildlife lived up here. There is a natural focus on the Sami population – but this isn’t a museum just focused on Sami culture like the Siida museum of the Sami culture. So this museum also focus on the other native people of the arctic region – interestingly only on Greenland is the native people still in the majority in their own region in all other parts of the arctic they have been outnumbered by other people who has moved into the northern regions of their country which is also the case in Finland where the native Sami only is a fraction of the northern population today.
There is a section with the wildlife of the arctic as well including several stuffed arctic animals on display. You can also see some of the old Sami tools used to survive in this harsh climate.
The museum is very nice to visit if you like to learn more about the arctic region – not just of Finland but of the world in general. Naturally the main focus is on Finland but the museum has a wider focus. You can get a ticket for 15€ or a ticket for 20€ which give you access to three museums in Rovaniemi. If you go to many of the 300 Finnish museums you can buy an annual access card for 69€.