Sámi Museum Siida’s exhibition renewal is a decolonial act
The doctoral dissertation that Sámi researcher Áile Aikio has submitted to the University of Lapland deals with the Sámi museum and the Sámification of the museum. Aikio’s dissertation The Sámi Museum? A Research on the Ontological Politics of Sámi Cultural Heritage will be examined at the Sámi Museum and Nature Centre Siida in Inari on Friday, December 8, 2023.
In her dissertation, Aikio finds that the Sámi cultural part of Siida’s main exhibition and its creation process are a unique act of decolonisation as well as an effort of the museum to build up a more Sámi way of performing museum work.
– We are very happy that the communal way of working chosen by the Museum as regards presenting Sámi culture to visitors shows both in the exhibition and its interpretation. The Sámi Museum Siida has the promotion of decolonisation as its central objective. We are pleased that Áile Aikio’s doctoral research supports the guidelines chosen by the Sámi Museum, states Sámi Museum Siida’s Museum Director Taina Pieski.
According to Pieski, Aikio’s dissertation provides valuable information on the Sámification of the museum and on how to integrate indigenous views into museum work even to a greater extent.
– The Sámi Museum Siida congratulates and thanks Aikio for her dissertation, which serves the Sámi community and Sámi culture in a concrete way, Pieski says.
The joint permanent exhibition of the Sámi Museum and the Northern Lapland Nature Centre was renewed in connection with the extension and renovation of the Siida Building in 2020 – 2022.
Siida’s new main exhibition “Enâmeh láá mii párnááh – These lands are our children” got its name from a poem written by Inari Sámi Matti Morottaja in Inari Sámi. The name sums up the most important messages of the museum in the areas of nature and culture. The new exhibition was opened on June 1, 2022, and has had as many as 110 000 visitors so far.
When creating the part of the new exhibition that focuses on Sámi culture we widely involved the Sámi community. The exhibition became a result of cooperation between the Sámi Museum and the fields of Sámi research and Sámi art. The manuscript for the cultural part was produced by Professor of Sámi Culture Veli-Pekka Lehtola, while Visual Artist Outi Pieski was the Artistic Director of the exhibition. The practical realisation of the exibition renewal was the responsibility of a large working group appointed by the Sámi Museum.
The Sámi cultural contents of the exhibition reflect on how the past goes on living in us.
– We at the Sámi Museum aimed at creating a new exhibition from the points of view of Sámi themselves. We especially wanted to direct the exhibition to the Sámi, concentrating on how to tell our own narrative. We were sure that if we told the story well enough, visitors would also understand it – regardless of their cultural backgrounds. On the basis of our visitor feedback and Áile Aikio’s dissertation, we have succeeded well in Sámifying the exhibition, Professor Veli-Pekka Lehtola says.
In the renewal process, we developed a new Sámi exhibition language in a unique way by working through several working groups and workshops, engaging a number of museums, artists, craftmakers, researchers and curators in this work.
The renewal of the cultural part of Siida’s main exhibition was funded by Kone Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation and Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation. The Sámi Museum also carried out the Interreg project Muittut, muitalusat – The Story of the Sámi by the Sámi – a project connected with the exhibition renewal, financed nationally by the Regional Council of Lapland and coordinated by Researcher Eeva-Kristiina Nylander. The nature part of Siida’s main exhibition was created by Metsähallitus and financed by the State. Biologist Matti Mela was responsible for the manuscript of the nature part. Harri Koskinen from Friends of Industry Ltd was the main designer of Siida’s new exhibition.
The European Commission and Europa Nostra, a citizens’ movement for cultural heritage, granted an award to the Sámi Museum Siida and the National Museum of Finland for their repatriation of cultural heritage in 2021 in the category Citizens Engagement & Awareness-raising. According to the Award Jury, the repatriation of the Sámi Collection represents “an invaluable contribution to the safeguarding of European cultural heritage”.
Almost 300 Sámi participated in the different phases of the repatriation process. They studied objects that belonged to their families, examining their crafting techniques, and participated in the choosing of the repatriated artefacts that would be (and are at present) displayed in the main exhibition of the Sámi Museum and the Northern Lapland Nature Centre Siida.
Áile Aikio: Saamelainen museo? Tutkimus saamelaisen kulttuuriperinnön ontologisesta politiikasta. (“Sámi Museum? A Research on the Ontological Politics of Sámi Cultural Heritage”). University of Lapland.
Taina Pieski, Museum Director, tel. +358 50 5351574
Veli-Pekka Lehtola, Professor, tel. +358 40 578 0492