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Matias Aleksanteri Castrén in Siberia

3.12.2013 - 1.6.2014

Joint exhibition of the Museum of Cultures and the Helsinki University Museum
at the Helsinki University Museum

It is 200 years since the birth of the Finnish philologist M. A. Castrén. Castrén conducted two research journeys to Siberia: 1841-1844 and 1845-1849. Although his aim was to prove that Finnish and the Khanty, Mansi and Samoyedic languages were related, he had an open mind to study other Siberian indigenous people's languages as well.

What does the Siberian language map look like today? The Kamassian language is extinct, there are hundreds of speakers of Enets and Nganasan, and Khanty, Mansi, Nenets and Selkup are endangered languages. The exhibition produced by the Museum of Cultures and the Helsinki University Museum takes a comparative look at Castrén's journeys and the lives of Finno-Ugric peoples in the 1840s and today's research into and language situation of Siberia.

Castrén was not only a language researcher. He also made notes on the Siberian indigenous peoples' lifestyles, religion, folk poetry and even geography. He obtained items for museum collections in Helsinki and St Petersburg. It is also of interest that some of the Siberian items now on display were also exhibited among the items of the University Museum of History and Ethnography in the Arppeanum building inaugurated in 1869.

In addition, the building offers glimpses of Helsinki's cultural history: the cast-iron staircase is one of the grandest in the Nordic countries and exhibited in the Imperial Hall are not only the portraits of the Russian Emperors but also the bronze bust of Alexander I. After the To Siberia! exhibition all museum and exhibition functions will cease in the building, and the University Museum will move to the Helsinki University's main building in spring 2015. The Museum of Culture is relocating to the National Museum's premises in 2014.

The Helsinki University Museum, The Arppeanum building, Snellmaninkatu 3

Opening hours                     
Tue-Fri 11-17, Sat-Sun 11-16, Mon closed

Admission fee
Free entry

Exhibition organisers
The Museum of Cultures / the National Museum of Finland, the Finno-Ugrian Society.

Ildikó Lehtinen, the Museum of Cultures / the National Museum of Finland

Marjaana Kinnermä

Working group
Sten Björkman, Pasi Hulkko, Kristiina Karinko, Heikki Kettunen, Ulla Kostiainen, Ildikó Lehtinen, Jaana Tegelberg, Pia Vuorikoski

Lotta Jalava, Ildikó Lehtinen, Merja Salo, Florian Siegl

Lighting design
Mikko Pirinen, Nanni Vapaavuori
VKK 388