torstai 25. toukokuuta 2017

"Museoiden pitäisi olla kuin romaaneja". Orhan Pamuk ja museot

Orhan Pamuk ja Heikki Aittokoski Helsinki Lit -kirjallisuustapahtuman lavalla Savoy-teatterissa 13.5.2017. Kuva: Eero Ehanti

Turkkilainen kirjailija Orhan Pamuk vieraili hiljattain Suomessa Helsinki Lit -tapahtumassa, josta syystä palasin hänen nerokkaan Viattomuuden museo -projektinsa ja siihen liittyvän museomanifestin pariin. Viimeksi niihin syvennyin ICOMin Milanon yleiskonferenssissa, jonka tähtihetkiin nobelistin videomuotoinen keynote -puheenvuoro kuului. Museopuhetta kovasti odotin Savoy-teatterin lavallakin kuulevani, lietsoin jopa haastattelija Heikki Aittokoskea aiemmin päivällä tviitein siihen suuntaan, mutta keskustelu pitäytyi uusimmassa romaanissa sivuten varovaisesti politiikkaa.

Harmi, sillä Pamuk on ilman muuta museoihminen, joka kirjoittaa ja puhuu arvostavasti ja kauniisti museoista. Viattomuuden museo -romaanin lopussa esimerkiksi Pamuk ensin protagonistin suulla ja sitten omallaan kuvailee Istanbuliin vanhaan taloon syntyvää kirjan tarinan museoivaa todellista museota. Siellä ovat, kirjan mukaan, päähenkilö Kemalin rakastaman Füsunin tuhannet tupakantumpit, joista Kemal osaa tulkita rakastettunsa mielialoja. Ne on aseteltu vitriiniin ja valaistu kauniisti, kuten ovat muutkin tuhannet arkiset esineet, joiden merkitys syntyy siitä, että ne liittyvät Kemalin ja Füsunin arkeen Istanbulissa. Vitriinit on sijoiteltu niin, että kävijällä on mahdollisuus nähdä lähes ne kaikki yhdestä paikasta, jolloin hän voi nähdä kokonaisen elämän yhdellä silmäyksellä. Salivalvojilla pitää olla ruskeat samettipuvut, jotka sopivat parhaiten viattomuuden museon nostalgiseen ja melankoliseen tunnelmaan, ja heidän pitää sallia rakastavaisten kuhertelut saleissa, ohjeistaa romaanihenkilö Kemal tarinaa kirjoittavaa ja Viattomuuden museon tulevaa perustajaa Orhan Pamukia. 

Mikä on totta, mikä ei? Ei sen väliä, tarina toimii ja se on konkretisoitu esinein museonäyttelyn muotoon, ja tämä kaikki kertoo olennaisesti elämästä juuri tuossa miljoonakaupungissa muutamien viime vuosikymmenien aikana. Kaikki voisi olla totta, joka riittää Pamukille. Ei tarvita faktoja eikä "oikeita" esineitä. Ne tuhannet tupakantumpit ovat muovisia, huulipunajäljet maalattu. Astiat ynnä muut käyttöesineet ovat kirpputoreilta, Pamukin itsensä haalimia. Sepitetty tarina ja rekvisiittaesineet - niistä on viattomuuden museo tehty.

Kuva: Eero Ehanti

Onko museo sellainen kun kirjassa kuvataan? Uskon niin, mutta en tiedä varmasti, koska en ole vielä siellä käynyt, vaikka paikalle matkustinkin 2010 kirja kainalossani museota etsimään, sitä kuitenkaan löytämättä johtuen siitä, että avajaiset olivat viivästyneet. Mutta olenpahan vaeltanut Kemalin ja Füsunin - ja Pamukin - maisemissa. Voin hyvin kuvitella kuinka museo sulautuu tähän ympäristöön ja kertoo tarinan paitsi tästä paikasta, myös jotain olennaista ihmisyydestä. Nimittäin juuri pienet ja paikalliset yksilöihin keskittyvät museot mahdollistavat ihmisyyden syvyyksien pohdiskelun, eivät suuret monumentit tai kansallismuseot, sanoo Pamuk painokkaasti kirjassaan ja manifestissaan.

Kansallismuseot ovat Pamukin mukaan kuin eepoksia, joissa kerrotaan kansakunnan sankarillista tarinaa. Hänen mielestään sellaisten aika on ohi, vaikkakaan hän ei kiistä Louvren, Eremitaasin ynnä muiden hienoutta saati olemassa olon oikeutusta. Mutta hän ei halua tulevaisuuden museoiden ottavan niistä mallia. (Eiväthän ne voisikaan, kun puhutaan mainituista koko maailman aarteita keränneistä ensyklopedisista museojättiläisistä, jollaisia ei enää näinä aikoina voisi syntyäkään.) Pamuk tuntuu sanovan, että kansallismuseot vieraannuttavat museokävijän yksilön tarinasta, jonka kertominen on paljon tärkeämpää ja valaisevampaa kuin jonkin suuren kansallisen tarinan kertominen. Hän rinnastaa museoiden kehityksen kirjallisuuden historiaan, jossa on edetty kansalliseepoksien ajasta romaanien aikaan. Mieluummin romaani kuin eepos, sanoo Pamuk. "National Museums, then, should be like novels, but they are not"" lukee manifestissa.

Pamuk on nostalgian ihminen. Nostalgia läpäisee koko tuotannon ja siitä on kyse myös hänen museossaan, se on selvää, ja jotenkin melankoliselta hänen maailmansa minulle maistuu, viehättävässä mielessä. Tunnistan tunteet, joita hän kuvaa, ja tunnustan sen taidon, millä hän kertoo pienen kautta jotain olennaista ihmisyydestä. Pidän myös kirjallisuusvertauksesta, koska itsekin löydän monesti fiktiosta syviä totuuksia kaipaamatta ollenkaan eksakteja faktoja tai tieteellistä tarkkuutta. Jälkimmäisillekin on paikkansa, ehkä juuri kansallismuseoiden kaltaisissa instituutioissa, joilla on laajoja vastuita muun muassa koulun jatkeena, mutta yleisötyöhön liittyen otan Pamukin manifestin haasteen tyytyväisenä vastaan. 

Manifestin tarkoituksena ei ole kansallismuseoiden vähättely - Pamuk on aivan liian suuri museoiden rakastaja alentuakseen sellaiseen - vaan kehotus inhimillisyyden syvyyksien pohdintaan paikallisen ja yksilöllisen kautta. Hyvä tavoite tuo on kansallismuoille kaikkialla ja mille tahansa muillekin museolle, kulttuurihistoriallisille sellaisille ainakin, jotka mielestäni asemoivat meidät tiettyyn paikkaan historiallisessa jatkumossa ja maantieteellisessä sijainnissa tuoden samalla esiin inhimillisiä tarinoita. Pamukin manifestistä saa hyviä eväitä tähän. 

Kyllä mikä tahansa museo, tai näyttely ainakin, voi olla kuin romaani.

Orhan Pamukin museomanifesti löytyy täältä ja ICOMin yleiskonferenssissa Milanossa heinäkuussa 2016 esitetty videopuheenvuoro täältä.

Eero Ehanti
Puheenjohtaja, ICOM Suomen komitea ry


tiistai 9. toukokuuta 2017

Mitä tulee ihmisen jälkeen? Maija-Riitta Ollila Museopäivillä



Pitkät ajat mielessäni ovat pyörineet Yuval Noah Hararin kirjat "Homo Sapies" ja "Homo Deus", jonka takia filosofi VTT Maija-Riitta Ollilan puheenvuoro Valtakunnallisten museopäivien ykköspäivänä ilahdutti suuresti. Kuten Ollila, Harari puhuu ihmislajin kehityksen vallankumouksista, joista ensimmäinen oli kognitiivinen sellainen, jonka myötä lajimme oppi yhteisten tarinoiden voiman sitoutuen siten yhtenäisesti toimivaksi yhteisöksi, jonka ansiosta kukistui fyysisesti vahvempi Neanderthalin ihminen. Toinen oli maanviljelyn vallankumous, joka asetti meidät aloilleen synnyttäen lopulta kaupungit, joissa kulttuuri pystyi kehittymään kohti sellaista sivistystä, jonka ansiosta meillä nykyään on vaikkapa museoita. Kolmas oli teollinen vallankumous, joka vapautti raskaista ja vaativista manuaalisista töistä ja potkaisi käyntiin nopean kehityksen kohti neljättä vallankumousta, jota elämme juuri nyt, nimittäin teknologista sellaista, joka muun muassa tuo kohta robottiautot kaduille. 

Hararin olennainen ajatus on, että nämä askeleet ovat kehitystä, mutta myös loukkoja, joista ei pääse pois. Vai pystytkö kuvittelemaan maailman ilman maanviljelyä? Tai internetiä? Kumpikaan näistä ei ole ollut välttämättä hyväksi ihmiselle, sanoo Harari, mutta minkäs teet, vanhoihin aikoihin ja tapoihin ei ole paluuta, vaikka kuinka haluaisi.  

Elämme monessa mielessä maailmanhistorian onnellisinta aikaa, ainakin vauraissa länsimaissa. Varsin viime aikoihin asti ihmisen piti jatkuvasti huolehtia ravinnosta, suojasta ja lämmöstä sekä elää jatkuvassa väkivallan ja kuoleman pelossa. Toisin on nyt, tappavat taudit kukistetaan sitä mukaa kun ne puhkeavat ja turvallisuudentunne on todellinen, tylsistyttäväkin kenties. Kohta kai jo synnytämme vain sellaisia ihmisiä, kuin halutaan ja tarvitaan. Keinoäly kehittyy ja sulautuu ihmisen toimintaan. Ihminen luo tarvitseminaan koneita ja ohjeistaa ne tekemään vaarallisia ja tylsistyttäviä töitä. Syntyy Homo Deus, ihminen, jolla on sellaista valtaa ja voimaa, joita menneinä aikoina ajateltiin olevan vain jumalilla. 

Tulkintaa, päätöksentekoa ja toteutusta siirtyy kiihtyvällä vauhdilla koneille, tai tarkemmin sanottuna algoritmeille, jotka ovat tulevaisuuden toimijoita. Miten määritellään elämä? Voiko algoritmi olla sitä? Ollila esitteli seurustelevan ja reagoivan Pepper -robotin, jollaisenkaltaisiin kai on tulevaisuudessa tottuminen. Mitä kaikkea ne voivat tehdä? Tämän hetken alakoululaiset eivät välttämättä koskaan tule tarvitsemaan ajokorttia, kun keinoäly vain yksinkertaisesti hoitaa ajamisen paljon turvallisemmin kuin tunteva ja vireystilaltaan ailahteleva ihminen. Samoin on lukuisten muiden töiden. Mitkä museoalan työt katoavat tulevaisuudessa? Voiko robotti konservoida maalauksen tai käsikirjoittaa hittinäyttelyn? 

Mutta sitten, humanismin vastaisku. Harari sanoo ihmisaivojen kuitenkin olevan vielä paras päätöksentekojärjestelmä, jota mikään algoritmi ei voi ohittaa. Voiko kone suorittaa niitä monimutkaisia pohdintoja, joita vaikkapa maalauksen konservointiin tai näyttelyn käsikirjoitukseen liittyy? Suoraviivaisin ratkaisu kun ei välttämättä ole järkevin toimintamalli sen enempää konservoinnissa kuin näyttelynteossakaan. Ja yleisemmin ajatellen, onko meillä jotain sellaista jota kone ei voi koskaan toisintaa? Ollila nostaa ihmisen vahvuudeksi oikean läsnäolon, luomusellaisen, josta tulee luksustuote koneistetun halpisversion rinnalla. Hänen hienossa powerpointissaan on kuva, jossa sanotaan robotin olevan kykenemätön tuntemaan - vielä. 

Haluammeko, että robotti oppii tuntemaan? Ollila on optimistinen korostaessaan, että teknologinen tulevaisuus näyttää valoisalta, toisin kuin Harari, jonka mukaan tuo hetki, kun robotti - tai algoritmi - oppii tuntemaan, saattaisi olla täysin katastrofaalinen. Se lienee se singulariteetti, jolloin keinoäly tulee tietoiseksi itsestään. Se hetki, josta Stephen Hawking (muistaakseni) ja muut kirjoittavat tuomiopäivän sävyyn. Koneet voittavat, nopeasti, tuntuu olevan vallitseva näkemys. Eikä tuhoon tarvita edes tietoisuutta, jos uskoo Hararia, joka korostaa koneiden toteuttavan vain annettuja käskyjä, tarkasti ja tehokkaimmalla mahdollisella tavalla. Mitä tekee riittävän tehokas ja kaiken mahdollisen internetiin kytketty keinoäly, kun sitä käsketään tuhoamaan syöpä maailmasta? Ehkä se laskee tehokkaimmaksi tavaksi koko ihmislajin täydellisen tuhoamisen, jonka se toteuttaa välittömästi ja tehokkaasti. Kannattaa miettiä kenelle valtaa annetaan.

Minua todella kiinnostaa mitä tapahtuu sitten kun Ollilan dian robotti oppii tuntemaan. Haluaako se tulla museoon? Entä sen omistaja? Ollaanko tulevaisuudessa kiinnostuneita niistä miljoonista materiaalisista museoesineistä, joita me vaivoja kaihtamatta vaalimme? Nehän pystyy toisintamaan jossakin sähköisessä muodossa ja vaikka materialisoimaankin jos niin halutaan. Pystymme jo melkoisiin suorituksiin digitoidessamme kulttuuriperintöä ja tuottaessamme hulppeita elämyksellisiä esityksiä näyttelyihin, kohteille ja verkkoon. Huomaan jatkuvasti seuratessani lähietäisyydeltä alakoululaisten toimintaa, kuinka digitaalinen saa lisää painoarvoa. Se voi olla yhtä olennaista ja aitoa kuin materiaalinenkin. Älypuhelimen näytöltä koettu esitys voi olla hienompaa kuin vitriiniin suljettu aitous. Ei minulle, mutta lapsilleni ehkä. Tämä pitää hyväksyä ja siihen pitää reagoida, kun mietitään, minkälainen tulevaisuuden museo on. 

Tarvitaanko tulevaisuudessa kokoelmia? Totta kai uskon, että tarvitaan (miten voisinkaan ajatella toisin johtaessani Kansallismuseon konservointityötä!), mutta oikeasti, kuka tietää mitä satojen vuosien päästä elävät ihmiset tarvitsevat ja haluavat? Joka tapauksessa, me käytämme tässä hetkessä valtaa tehdessämme valintoja siitä mitä säilytetään ja mitkä tarinat kerrotaan. Vaan ei tästä pidä paineita ottaa. Ei muserruta riittämättömyyden tunteeseen loputtomien vastuiden paineessa, vaan nautitaan siitä vallasta, jota meillä kulttuuriperinnön osalta on. Se voi olla helpottavaa, kuten Ollila tulkintani mukaan vihjaa heittäessään ilmaan kysymyksen: onko ihminen vastuussa omasta terveydestään vai onko hänellä pikemminkin valtaa vaikuttaa omaan terveyteensä? Jälkimmäinen ajatusmalli on paljon positiivisempi, suorastaan voimaannuttava mielestäni. Pidän tästä, kuten pidin koko puheenvuorosta hienoine animoituine powerpointteineen. Kiitos!

Eero Ehanti
Puheenjohtaja
ICOM Suomen komitea ry 

maanantai 20. maaliskuuta 2017

Rule 8: Museums operate in a professional manner

Do they?


Museums do not operate or do anything at all! No operations or activities are ever performed by an organisation but by people, together or alone. Certainly, museum professionals do their job and get their pay from the museum or its owner, such as the municipality, city, state or foundation, but the most essential question is who they are ultimately working for – and how? Indeed, the principle of the eighth rule of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums does not talk about museums but members of the museum profession, and goes on to list 16 prohibitions in its 18 subsections. Looking at these, I am reminded of the ten strict commandments given to Moses by God in the Old Testament, seven of which are based on the explicit prohibition “Thou shalt not”. The fifth commandment, however, includes a promise: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” In my understanding, what you were originally meant to honour in order to prosper were not your parents or other authorities but something that was vital back then: the knowledge and skills of your parents and community – culture. The eighth rule of the Code, by contrast, does not include a single promise. Why not?

In the eighth rule, professional conduct is seen as a list of the employee’s obligations and responsibilities towards the employer – the museum – but not vice versa. They must not do this, they must follow this and avoid that, etc. Many of the prohibitions and recommendations are self-evident to Finnish employees. This prohibitionary approach to the profession reminds me of an old Finnish proverb about climbing a tree. If you want to do it in the most difficult way possible, do it with your bottom first. There is also another problem in the prohibitions. When Hannu-Tapani Klami, a late Finnish Professor of Law, commented on the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, he noted that many of their prohibitions do not match Finnish legislation. The last sentence of the principle of the eighth rule goes like this: “Every opportunity should be used to inform and educate the public about the aims, purposes, and aspirations of the profession to develop a better public understanding of the contributions of museums to society.” There is something wrong here, upside down. Is the public there for the museum? Is the goal of museum work to make the museum appear good to the public? Or are the goals elsewhere altogether? If they are, like I assume, could these goals be emphasised to both members of the museum profession and society instead of listing prohibitions?

What are professional skills in the context of museums and who has them? To simplify, I think these skills are possessed by all people who work at a museum and have familiarised themselves with the museum as a societal actor in general and with the field of their own museum in particular. These two factors are also mentioned in the Finnish Museums Decree as prerequisites for state subsidies. Professional skills in museums have hugely expanded in the past few years, and people have – speaking allegorically, in university terminology – received their education in completely different faculties and subjects. The only common denominator may be, as mentioned in the Museums Decree, museology (heritology), which familiarises one with the museum and cultural heritage processes. One question that is relevant today: In a professionally or non-professionally managed museum, can volunteers working without pay act as museum professionals? I think they can, provided that they, too, have familiarised themselves with the museum as a societal actor in general and with the field of their own museum in particular.

The current ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums was approved in 2004. It is an updated version of the Code adopted in 1986. All in all, the Code seems to be out of date in many aspects in today’s quickly changing world. Therefore, it should be revamped urgently. For an international organisation whose rules should apply to all countries and cultures, the challenge is tough and the road is long. Should we look elsewhere for a solution?

Janne Vilkuna
Professor of Museology at the University of Jyväskylä and
Director of the Jyväskylä University Museum

maanantai 13. maaliskuuta 2017

Rule 7: Museums operate in a legal manner

It feels slightly odd that museums should separately mention in their Code of Ethics that they operate in a legal manner. This should go without saying or writing. However, the news published in 2016 about companies benefiting from the Panama tax haven show very bluntly that the law can be read in many ways. In Finland, the party that has so far seemed the worst perpetrator in this is Nordea Bank. Their entire management has had to convince people that the bank follows the law – albeit not as solemnly as museums do through the seventh rule of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums According to the Code, “museums must conform fully to international, regional, national and local legislation and treaty obligations”.

Presumably, from the perspective of legal experts, Nordea has not broken the law. Whether it has acted justly is another question. Apparently, the thinking of many legally trained people might be described in the words of Finnish author Väinö Linna – in Linna’s novel Under the North Star, crofter Otto Kivivuori described the legal studies of his son Janne, saying that he was not studying the law in order to be able to follow it but to circumvent it.

Not everyone thinks that using one’s perfect legal knowledge to find loopholes is just. However, complete justice is even more unlikely than complete legality. This is because justice is more about individual feeling than knowledge. Tax evasion is a good example of this. Few people consider it just that wealthy people are evading taxes with the help of Panama. Presumably, equally few people consider it unjust that Finns travel in hordes to Estonia to buy liquor, even though this is also a question of tax evasion.

Following the law from the viewpoint of general justice seems to be highly important in issues represented by organisations and their employees. It is clear that, from the viewpoint of justice, museums and their employees are treated differently than other people in questions relating to the preservation and representation of cultural heritage. This can be tested with a little mental exercise: if a public work of art was vandalised or destroyed by an art museum employee or a regular hooligan, how would it be reported in the news? In the first case, the background of the vandal would probably be mentioned in the headlines, and it would also be likely to be the key factor that made the event newsworthy.

I claim that no museum conforms to ICOM’s ethical rule about operating in a legal manner. A museum’s operations are governed by a number of laws relating to administration, finances and actual museum work, and nobody knows the full content of these laws and, therefore, can fully comply with them. At the national and international level, the laws broken most often are undoubtedly copyright and personal data laws, whose content is ambiguous. Following these laws fully would destroy the foundation of all collection work. However, this does not mean that we should stop following the laws or, in a tight spot, plead ignorance or complain about their complexity. We must know the laws applying to our activities better and be able to use them to assess the legality of our activities and the risks involved in our interpretations of them.

Where legality is concerned, one peculiarity of Finnish museum operations is the fact that most museums do not follow – and do not need to follow – the Finnish Museums Act. Unlike the name suggests, this act does not specify anything about museums or the legality of their operations. It stipulates how a museum can start receiving state subsidies and keep receiving them. Of all Finnish museums, less than 20% are currently receiving state subsidies. There is a need to expand the content of the Museums Act. As regards the development of the field, it would be good if the Museums Act could also include other laws linked with museum operations, the first of which that spring to mind are the Antiquities Act and the Act on the Protection of Buildings. The role of these as the cornerstones of the legal and societal operation of museums could be strengthened.

In my opinion, the rule “Museums operate in a legal manner” is a problematic one among those in the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, particularly as regards its current content. Following the law cannot be an ethical choice as such; it should be self-evident. By contrast, choosing not to follow the law may be an ethical choice in certain situations. Such ethical choices can be made by environmental movements, for example. If the entire rule is not omitted to make room for some value-based rule, the content should be modified to say something about how museums must promote justice, particularly from the perspective of their key task and the related questions.  If this feels like too big a step, let’s at least omit the word ‘fully’ from the current definition. Let’s not make things too difficult by striving for perfection, even in this matter.

Kimmo Levä
Secretary General, Finnish Museums Association

maanantai 6. maaliskuuta 2017

Rule 6: Museums work in close collaboration with the communities from which their collections originate

Do not always believe the community


An old man was moved to tears while visiting the Finnish Lenin Museum. Established in 1946 in Tampere, Finland, the museum was still displaying its legendary permanent exhibition, which highlighted the Bolshevist leader’s feats of strength. The man started talking reverently to the guide about Father Stalin. What are you supposed to answer in such a situation? Could you just try to wriggle out of the awkward conversation, should you challenge the old man with the help of historical research, or should you pretend to agree with him, because the customer is always right, as they say?

The sixth rule of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums does not sound very nice from the guide’s perspective. According to the Code, museum collections reflect the cultural heritage of their community, they may include strong affinities with political identity, and the original owner of the collections must not be exploited. The collections of the Lenin Museum were donated by Finland’s eastern neighbour, and the museum was founded by local communists soon after World War II. Does this heritage oblige the museum to retain respect for the creator of the collections, the mighty Soviet Union and, at the same time, the remains of the community that established the museum?

Surprisingly many rules in the ICOM Code of Ethics seem to have been created for the needs of a postcolonial museum world. They have reined in the old museums of the colonial powers and lightened the white man’s burden: lurking in the background is a shame about innocent aboriginal peoples that have been exploited, robbed and racialised by the imperialist museum system. While this is a genuine concern, it is a poor match to the ethical problems of Finnish museums, for example. We Finns should rather think about how the overly sensitive, prim touch of today’s museums often leaves the sore points of the past untouched. In its present form, the Code mainly warns us against hurting anyone and encourages us to respect communities according to their wishes or conditions.

In addition to underlining dignity, the Code luckily states that museums should also promote human well-being, social development, tolerance, and respect by advocating multisocial, multicultural and multilingual expression. As a matter of fact, these higher values, which are based on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should be emphasised instead of the naive talk about communities. If a museum is using its collections to cover up past wrongdoings, it is acting unethically – not even the creator of the collections should be allowed to evade the judgement of history. Museums must also dare to look at their own roots.

In order to gain ethical confidence for its reformation, the Lenin Museum in Tampere sought help from a higher power – the public. A small exhibition was put up for this purpose, where the visitors could take a stand, make suggestions and vote on the kinds of things that the new museum should address. The wish list was topped by Soviet humour and daily life, the KGB, labour camps and dissidents. The former permanent exhibition did not say a thing about these. Naturally, the old collections cannot provide all this, but they can be supplemented, and new meanings can be assigned to the key works.

When preliminary information about the new content of the Lenin museum started spreading, it seems that the museum unfortunately lost a few of its old friends. Those still attracted to Soviet communism (for they do exist) are afraid of seeing a sacrilege and might have similar feelings as the aboriginal peoples unethically objectified by ethnographic museums. On the ethical scales, however, the memory of the Soviet system’s victims weighs more today than admirers of the system. For surely museums cannot just stay tactfully silent if innocent people have been killed, whether in Stalin’s meat grinder or a cannibal tribe’s cooking pot?

Kalle Kallio
Museum Director, Finnish Labour Museum Werstas (Werstas opened the revamped Lenin Museum in Tampere on 17 June 2016)

maanantai 27. helmikuuta 2017

Rule 5: Museums hold resources that provide opportunities for other public services and benefits

The fifth rule of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums looks at co-operation opportunities between museums and other public actors. Or did I misunderstand the heading completely? The subheadings in this section only talk about identification services, meaning the identification of illegally or illicitly acquired objects, and authentication and valuation. Indeed, the special expertise of museums is necessary for these.

The Code warns that the stated mission of museums may be compromised if their special expertise, skills and material resources are used to extend the museum’s activities by sharing resources or providing services.

But could the allocation of resources also be rethought? Could the fifth rule also deal with the sort of co-operation with other providers of public services that aims at richer interaction and is linked with meanings: What do museums have to offer that promotes good interaction between people and makes them strongly feel that they are alive?

In practice, this could involve sharing and developing expertise with actors in the social and health sector: using museums in a new way for special groups and new visitors, making museums more like living rooms, expanding the communal aspects, getting customers more involved and hearing their voices. This is time-consuming and even expensive but rewarding (as we know).

I have been working in the museum field for a long time, also as a freelance specialist in the art and museum fields, and have had the opportunity to be involved in many great – but short-lived! – co-operation projects between museums, the social and health sector and associations. Why on earth have these projects not led to more extensive, long-term or permanent forms of co-operation?

In Finland, we have the Culture for All service, Health from Culture network as well as numerous other bilateral partnerships, projects and publications. There is plenty of proof that we can achieve more together and will learn a lot. Nevertheless, the structures have not changed much, the co-operation has not become permanent and there is still no proper coordination. Many projects are a feather in the cap, nice things to write reports about.

Without a bold new approach and persistence (as well as successful funding and co-operation concepts), there would be no successful concepts like National Museums Liverpool’s House of Memories project, which aims to improve the lives of people living with dementia. In the project, the national group of museums has produced a multi-faceted, research-oriented method that has reached thousands of people through training and has been widely spread and awarded at the national and international level – a method it is developing and productising successfully. Do read more about it!

Why do our museums lack the courage to expand beyond their “stated mission”? Not everyone needs to do everything, but selecting your partners and target groups courageously might sometimes result in something good and lasting.

Satu Itkonen
Head of Public Programmes, Ateneum Art Museum

tiistai 21. helmikuuta 2017

Rule 4: Museums provide opportunities for the appreciation, understanding and management of the natural and cultural heritage

What is a good and functional museum relationship?


According to the fourth rule of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, “museums provide opportunities for the appreciation, understanding and management of the natural and cultural heritage. -- Museums have an important duty to develop their educational role and attract wider audiences from the community, locality, or group they serve. Interaction with the constituent community and promotion of their heritage is an integral part of the educational role of the museum.” So, we have the ethical obligation to establish and maintain relations with our communities. What is an ethically sound museum relationship like? Both parties should surely ask themselves what they expect of the relationship, what they get and what they give. If the relationship does not work, who needs the museum? We are facing some rather fundamental questions when we ponder our relationships with our communities.

The background of Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum lies in the Finnish Forest Museum Foundation, which was founded in 1988 and given the task of establishing a national forest museum in Finland. The foundation consisted of more than 40 stakeholders in forestry who wanted to preserve cultural heritage relating to forests. Forestry organisations were closely involved in planning the museum, gathering the collections, building the museum, starting the operations and even organising the funding.

Many things have changed in 20 years in both forestry and the museum field as well as in the relationships between the forest museum and forestry organisations. We have asked our interest groups what they would like to get from us. Some of the relationships have perhaps gone a bit flat. Some stakeholders did not know what to wish for at all, since they no longer knew how the relationship started in the first place. This means that museum counselling is needed and, at the moment, we are actively looking for new perspectives into old relationships. Communities are important to us, since we would have no significance without them. In order to appreciate, understand and protect the natural and cultural heritage, we need to have enough people who appreciate, understand and protect it. Luckily, many relationships have also been deepened and strengthened in the course of the years. We have even made some completely new relationships and found a new spark in old relationships.

Even though the Code of Ethics talks about interaction and service, talking about the “educational role” of museums feels slightly one-sided and dictated. Learning – as well as the responsibilities, obligations and rights relating to culture heritage – should be mutual. Could the key features of a good museum relationship be modelled after the instructions for a good romantic relationship? These include trust and a steady foundation, shared values, open and direct interaction, mutual responsibility for the relationship, respecting the needs of both parties, acceptance and appreciation, freedom and personal development, true friendship. The parties must also ask themselves whether they are desirable partners. And it does not make sense to stay together if you do not have what is most important: a common goal and purpose.

A good, ethical museum relationship is based on museums being able to open up the significance of appreciating, understanding and protecting cultural heritage to communities for which the cultural heritage may be an important resource that they need when they build their identities, images and brands. The cultural heritage is a societally significant resource whose use and utilisation are enabled by a good museum relationship.

Reetta Karhunkorva
Curator, Exhibitions Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum

Leena Paaskoski
Collections Manager, Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum
Member of the Board of the Finnish National Committee of ICOM

maanantai 13. helmikuuta 2017

Rule 3: Museums hold primary evidence for establishing and furthering knowledge

Does your museum conduct research?


The third rule of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums reminds us that “museums hold primary evidence for establishing and furthering knowledge”. It is our duty to ensure that the collections are researched and looked after. Also, the collections and the information contained in them should be accessible to everyone.

The Code takes a stand on the acquisition, analysis and respectful handling of materials. It ponders the personnel’s rights to the results of the research and urges people to share their expertise and respect the expertise of others. The Code also encourages co-operation with other institutions collecting cultural heritage.

Like many other things, research is closely linked with the collection management policy of museums. The ICOM Code of Ethics demands that the value of collections as research material is clearly identified in the collection management policy of museums. The collection management policy must also make clear that it is based on the museum’s stated mission. The document should not depend on trends that are popular in the museum world at each time.

How is this realised in your museum?

In the 2010s, an increasingly central role is played by visions and goals specified by museums in co-operation with other communities. However, many museum researchers are still individualists whose interests are guided by their own ideas more than the employer’s strategies. How far away from the museum’s stated mission can the research topics actually diverge? Where is the line between an employee’s rights and obligations? How long can a researcher sit on material for some eventual, possible research use?

Whose truths and stories do the museum collections intend to highlight and corroborate? Can collections and collection research be used to challenge predominant truths and power relationships? Do we dare? What about changing truths? Scientific information is accumulating and self-correcting by nature. Can we identify today’s essential information and share it with others? Does funding influence the selection of research subjects? On what principles do we publish material in Finna, the shared search service of Finnish cultural memory organisations?

Research conducted at a museum should be linked with the overall collections and collection management policy of the museum, if we want to spend our resources sensibly and, therefore, maybe also ethically. Do we always check the background of new material acquired carefully enough? How will the information we collect be conveyed to the next generation of museum professionals? Are we collecting information for ourselves or serving the accumulation of overall cultural heritage? Ethical acquisition results in high-quality collections whose acquisition principles will also be understandable to those who will continue our work. I think that this is linked with modern documentation in particular but, naturally, all other acquisition as well.

The ICOM Code of Ethics does not mention research policy among the documents necessary for a museum. I do not know if every museum needs one – each can consider it individually. However, it is probably clear that all museums must think about what research means for them, since very few museums have resources for research based on purely scientific questions. Nevertheless, a Finnish museum professional’s education includes an understanding of the various stages of the academic research process. It would be useful to specify to both oneself and others the parts of the process in which the research work of one’s own museum is positioned. Producing information and opening it for an audience, also an academic audience, is an important part of both the research process and museum work. Co-operation with academic institutions also increases mutual understanding of the cultural heritage, and museums need not perform all the work themselves. For an example, you can look at Espoo City Museum’s recently published research and publication policy (in Finnish).


Minna Sarantola-Weiss
Member of the Board of the Finnish National Committee of ICOM
Head of Research, Helsinki City Museum