Major exhibition about the Battle of Svensksund and the fortress city of Ruotsinsalmi opens in Kotka
The Fateful Svensksund exhibition will open at Maritime Centre Vellamo in Kotka on 9 June 2020. It provides an unprecedented look at the most significant naval battle ever fought on the Baltic Sea, just outside Kotka, in 1790 and the fortress city that was built after the battle. The preparations for telling this impressive story through the means of an exhibition have been underway for years, and now 3D modelling and the latest gaming technology could also be utilised in the implementation. The exhibition was created in cooperation between the Maritime Museum of Finland and Kymenlaakso Museum, and it is a production of the National Museum of Finland and the City of Kotka. The exhibition has also received funding from the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, Google, the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Regional Council of Kymenlaakso.
‘Fateful Svensksund is an impressive historical exhibition, which we have been investing in for several years at the National Museum of Finland,’ Director General of the National Museum Elina Anttila says. ‘The power struggle between the two great powers left its mark on the Finnish landscape and people near the border, which travelled near the Kymi River at the time. The events are part of the history of the countries in this region, and they reflect its dependency on the international environment. The unique collection of items, the research cooperation based on the international contacts of the Maritime Museum of Finland and our partners as well as the latest presentation technology come together in a splendid way in this exhibition, offering a real journey through time back to the 18th century,’ Anttila describes.
Ruotsinsalmi is still strongly present in Kotka. The fortress’ training field was covered by the market square, dwellings are known to have been located under some of the apartment buildings, and the old walls remain standing along a jogging path. Off the coast, the vessel traffic of the major port and yachts glide above the wrecks and those who drowned in the battles.
‘The battles of Svensksund still live on strongly in our cityscape in the form of historical sites as well as place names and stories. The past and the present come together in a stunning setting in the new exhibition at Maritime Centre Vellamo,’ Mayor of Kotka Esa Sirviö praises.
The implementation of the exhibition utilises the latest modelling and virtual technology
For centuries, Sweden and Russia fought for dominion over the Baltic Sea. Their border region, present-day Finland, became the theatre of the military confrontations between these two great powers on several occasions. The Fateful Svensksund exhibition opens a view into the boundary between war and peace as well as the people stuck between the great powers. At the core of the exhibition is the human experience and its independence of national borders.
Two naval battles were fought at Svensksund, located off the coast of present-day Kotka, during the Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790. The second of these battles was recorded in history as a particularly large battle, and the stories about it are now brought to life with new digital technology. The internationally well-known VR studio Zoan has produced a virtual presentation called ‘Smoke on the waves’ for the exhibition. It shows the roar and harshness of this historical battle on a 10-metre-wide wall by means of the latest gaming technology. Next to this presentation, the everyday items recovered from the wrecks lying at the bottom of Svensksund are painted in a melancholy light.
Ruotsinsalmi fortress, which was a significant population centre on a Finnish scale, was built on present-day Kotkansaari Island after the battles. The almost 10,000 inhabitants of the fortress represented several nationalities and religions. The exhibition explores the life stories of soldiers, officers, merchants and servants through personal stories and portraits taken by photographer Elina Simonen.The destroyed fortress city and its phases can be studied with the help of an interactive scale model.
The exhibition project has sped up scientific research
The exhibition is based on a significant amount of research work that has made it possible to model the locations of the battle of 1790 and the most important types of vessels that participated in it, among other things. The 16 types of ships in the virtual implementation will be published as open data for free use.
The best-known vessel in Svensksund is the Russian frigate Saint Nicholas, which was sunk off the coast of Kotka. The vessel is present in the exhibition in the form of pieces of the wreck, items that belonged to the crew and an interactive multimedia work. The items in the exhibition primarily come from the sizeable and unique collections related to the subject of the National Museum of Finland, Kymenlaakso Museum and the Finnish Heritage Agency.
Joint effort by a vast group
Fateful Svensksund will open to the public on 9 June 2020 as part of Maritime Centre Vellamo’s long-term main exhibitions. The exhibition is a new undertaking in the cooperation between two of the museums operating at Maritime Centre Vellamo: the national Maritime Museum of Finland and Kymenlaakso Museum, which is in charge of regional museum activities. The exhibition is produced by the National Museum of Finland and the City of Kotka.
The exhibition has received funding from the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, the grant programme of a Google data centre, the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Regional Council of Kymenlaakso. The exhibition design was created by Pentagon Design. Digital productions by Zoan Oy, Fantomatico Oy and Kunstventures Oy, among other operators.
More information about the Fateful Svensksund exhibition
- The exhibition’s project manager: Johanna Aartomaa, +358 (0)295 33 6486, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ruotsinsalmi fortress: researcher Liisa Koho, +358 (0)40 776 7005, email@example.com
- Smoke on the waves virtual presentation, until 12 June: researcher Aaro Sahari, +358 (0)295 33 6107, firstname.lastname@example.org