Sámi Museum continues its community activities through virtual meetings

The Sámi Museum Siida is a communal museum. It has a plan of arranging community meetings in the areas of collection and exhibition work both in the Sámi Area and elsewhere in Finland. During the Covid-19 period, the meetings are arranged virtually, using remote access facilities. The first virtual meeting will be an Inari Sámi Language Night on Thursday, October 8th 2020, which focuses on items from the Finnish National Museum that were collected in the Inari region in 1902.

Communal activities are part of the Sámi Museum Siida’s core operations, including meetings, workshops, seminars and cultural nights. The community the Museum directs its activities at consists of the Sámi population, but also other people. The objective and purpose of the operations is to bring the Museum closer to the so-called ordinary people. Communal activities open the doors to the world of museums: a personal connection brings the Museum and its involvement in the sphere of shared cultural heritage closer to people’s everyday lives and history. As a memory organisation, the Museum works as the memory of the community.

The Sámi Museum has planned to have communal meetings in different parts of Finland. In addition to the Museum’s permanent staff, communal activities are carried out by Ulpu Mattus-Kumpunen, the community coordinator of the Muitát project funded by the Kone Foundation, communal interpreter Heini Wesslin and “the museum friends”, or contact persons, of different regions that will be appointed in the autumn.

In February 2020, a day on interactive learning was arranged in Siida together by the Museum, the Sámi Education Institute and the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. During the day, students and teachers of Sámi crafts and conservation learned about the special features of Sámi objects, artefact research, conservation and repatriation processes; there were also workshops in which these themes were looked at together with the staff of the Sámi Museum.

The Covid-19 period has prevented the Museum from carrying out its communal activities as widely as planned. Meetings are now mainly arranged as virtual meetings, with the aim of having the contact persons of the community meet the important people in their lives safely. Additional public meetings and trips are avoided.

In the meetings, the artefacts and the photographs of the Sámi Museum’s collections play a central role. Objects from the Sámi Museum’s collections and the items that will be repatriated by the Finnish National Museum are presented to the community, to be identified and looked at. The objectives of these activities include making the Sámi cultural environment visible. For the Sámi, nature is a library and archive that reflects our shared memory. Using photographs, we reminisce about the meaning of places from the point of view of livelihoods, dwelling sites and sources of inspiration for narratives and handicrafts. Some of the results of these communal activities will be presented in the new main exhibition of the Sámi Museum and Nature Centre Siida.

Communal operations are part of the Sámi Museum’s project Muitát – From Repatriation to Revitalisation Using Sámi Museum Practices. In this project, the Sámi Museum studies actively what kind of communal ways of working are practical and give results. The best practices will be applied as new Sámi museum practices. The community aspect also plays a central role in other projects dealing with the renewal of the exhibition (the Museum Vision project and Muittut, muitalusat -Interreg project) run by the Sámi Museum presently.