A wooden ahkio sled used by Oula Aikio from Vuotso was made in Teno, Utsjoki, in 1940–1949 and is part of the exhibition. It was in use from around 1945 to 1965. Photo: Omar El Mrabt, Finnish Heritage Agency

The Homecoming exhibition opening at the National Museum taught operators to work as equals

Exhibitions, Collections, Museums

The Homecoming exhibition is a refreshing combination of culture-historical material, expression through contemporary art and culture-political debate. The exhibition connected to the repatriation process of the National Museum’s Sámi collection will be open at the National Museum from 31 October 2021 to 27 February 2022.

Mäccmõš, maccâm, máhccan – The Homecoming has been coordinated by a ten-member working group. This working group includes collection and exhibition experts from the Sámi Museum Siida and the National Museum of Finland. The group also has representatives from the Sámi community: artwork decisions and visual direction were carried out by Outi Pieski, visual direction and graphic designs by Lada Suomenrinne, and content direction by Petra Laiti. Architect Kaisa Karvinen has been in charge of the exhibition’s spatial design.

‘During the process of putting together this exhibition, all parties have had the opportunity to learn from one another. Since becoming familiar with each other and learning to work together, the process has given us a lot. It has been a great pleasure to witness and be able to share the depth of the exhibition working group’s understanding of how the collection was created, how meaningful it is, and what the emotions and opportunities connected to the repatriation are,’ says Curator Anni Guttorm from the Sámi Museum Siida, one of the working group’s members.

‘The members of this working group have given the necessary time and space to each other and the process, allowing us to build trust and come up with a new way of doing things,’ says Curator Mitro Kaurinkoski from the National Museum of Finland.

Creating a museum exhibition involves countless decisions – including what to exclude.

‘In this exhibition, we have carefully considered the importance of decisions and how they may be interpreted from different perspectives,’ Kaurinkoski continues.

Serving as the exhibition’s architect, Kaisa Karvinen has found the process to be, first and foremost, about unlearning things.

‘I feel that the whole working group has contributed to the spatial design. My role has been to listen and facilitate. The exhibition structures refer to the stores and archives where the Sámi artefacts were housed,’ Karvinen says.

The exhibition, located in the National Museum’s facilities for changing exhibitions, involves themes such as repatriation of cultural heritage, the significance of being in control of it, the relationship between the Sámi and the Finns, the relationship between the Sámi and nature, as well as the value of handicrafts.

The Homecoming is a combination of parallel and overlapping levels of narrative. The objects speak of their experiences and the texts illustrate the reasons behind the repatriation and its importance, as well as the complex relationship between an indigenous people and a dominant culture. Furthermore, the artwork adds another layer that would be difficult to achieve verbally. In addition to the working group, content for the exhibition has been created by Sámi storytellers, commentary authors, contemporary artists and crafters.