Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

Helsinki, Finland | C.1909

Photo Credit: Lucrezia Rossi

Founded in 1909 on Seurasaari island by the ethnographer Axel Olai Heikel, the Seurasaari Open Air Museum illustrates the history of Finland in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries through a collection of more than 80 buildings from all parts of the country.

Known also as Finland’s national open-air museum, this venue was established, like those of other Scandinavian countries, in the period of Romantic nationalism before the First World War, at a time when Finland was a part of the Russian Empire.

Among the exhibits are windmills, a tar boat from Oulo, a 17th century water-powered saw mill and a country store from 1871. The Kurssi farmstead shows how weaving was a popular summer pastime in some parts of Finland before the development of textile factories.

There are also occasional demonstrations of log floating and other forest activities. The Halla house of the early 19th century from Hyrynsalmi in the Kainuu region exhibits the age-old tradition of opening farmhouses in forest areas for itinerant workers, loggers, reindeer herders, hunters and migrant farm laborers.

Seurasaari is an island district in Helsinki, Finland. This island is a summer attraction for many Helsinkians who come to enjoy the rural, outdoor atmosphere. Seurasaari is home to a variety of bird species, as well as red squirrels and hares.

The height of the island’s popularity is at Midsummer, when a colossal bonfire is built on a small isle just off the island’s coast, and ignited by a newlywed couple. Thousands of people, both tourists and Helsinkians, watch the burning of the bonfire from both Seurasaari itself and from boats anchored nearby.

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