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Museum of Cultures, National Museum of Finland
Helsinki, Finland
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The history of the Museum of Cultures/National Museum of Finland, begins with the Coin, Medals and Art Cabinet established at the Imperial Alexander University of Helsinki in 1828. Not only coins and medals but also other collections as aids to academic teaching were obtained there. Primarily natural history specimens, but also ethnographic and archaeological materials were acquired. The first collection item of the Cabinet, which is also the oldest object of the Museum of Cultures was catalogued in 1828 with the designation VK 1 as “an overcoat worn by Indians from California”. 150 years later it was identified as a Salish Indian cloak. In 1849, the ethnographic collections were transferred from the Coin, Medals and Art Cabinet to the recently established Ethnographic Museum of the Imperial Alexander University of Helsinki. In the 1800s the collections of the University’s Ethnographic Museum mostly grew through donations or sales of small numbers of items by private individuals. The donators and sellers were sea-farers, military officers, merchants and academics who had the opportunity to travel. There were also many individuals who were in Russian service. The majority of the museum’s foreign collections came from North America, particularly from Alaska, which was a Russian colony at the time. China represented the second-largest group. Four major collections were combined in 1893 to form the State Historical Museum. In 1916 it was renamed the National Museum of Finland and opened to the public in the new building. At that stage the collections comprised of over 2000 “exotic” objects. The so-called comparative ethnographic collections of the National Museum of Finland had accumulated by linguists and other explorers, missionaries, state officials in faraway countries and also private collectors in the late 1800s and first decades of the 1900s. The Finno-Ugrian collections increased on field expeditions, the purpose of which was to find out the origin of the Finnish language and the Finns. Among the persons, who have contributed to the outstanding Asian collections, can be mentioned professor U. T. Sirelius (mostly Khanty; Western Siberia), linguist, professor Artturi Kannisto (mostly Mansi, Western Siberia), linguist Toivo Lehtisalo (Tundra and Forest Nenets, Siberia), Salvation Army officer, missionary Edvard Rosenlund (Central Sulawesi, Indonesia), professor G. J. Ramstedt (Mongolia), missionaries Siiri Uusitalo (Japan) and Toivo Koskikallio (China), and baron, President of Finland C. G. E. Mannerheim (Central Asia). Most of the ethnographic and Finno-Ugrian collections were obtained with funds from the Antell Delegation. More recently, the contemporary India and Siberia collections have greatly added up thanks to the field trips of museum’s own curators. In 1996 a major collection from South and Southeast Asia was bequeathed to the museum. The Finno-Ugrian and ethnographic collections of the National Museum of Finland were combined and the name Museum of Cultures adopted in 1999. The new museum opened in Tennispalatsi (Tennis Palace) building at the center of Helsinki. The Collections The Publications

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P.O.Box 913 
Museum of Cultures 




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