Sámi Siida in Inari awarded 2024 European Museum of the Year

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - May 8, 2024
Siida’s open-air museum showcases the cultural-, architectural heritage and livelihoods of the Sámi in Finland. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The award committee praised the recently renewed museum for its creativity, ethical conservation practices and fostering of cultural dialogue.

Fifty museums from 24 Council of Europe member states were nominated and all were visited by the jury members, closely examining each candidate.

By the end of the evaluation, Siida Sámi Museum on the banks of Lake Inari in northernmost Finland stood as a clear winner for this year’s European Museum of the Year Award.

The museum is the national museum of the Sámi people of Finland, the only recognized indigenous culture in Europe.

“Sámi Museum Siida, as an indigenous museum, is primarily for the Sámi people themselves. But we are extremely pleased to see how our Sámi story resonates with the entire European museum community and people around the world,” said museum director Taina Pieski in her acceptance speech.

Established in 1959, the museum was fully refurbished in 2022 with expanded public spaces and a nature centre.

The jury acknowledges the museum for wide cooperation with various Sámi associations, craft associations and educational institutions.

“The museum has shown excellence in its open, participatory, and transparent process of integration, which creates new opportunities for both the Sámi and the broader population to link past and present. By recognizing their right of ownership of ancestral lands at the judicial level as well as of the Sámi Parliaments as a means of cultural autonomy, the museum also strongly resonates with broader discussions about the practice of reparations for Indigenous peoples, in Europe and globally.”

The village of Inari is also home to the Finnish Sámi Parliament, the Finnish broadcaster YLE’s Sápmi newsroom and the Sámi cultural center Sajos.

There are three Sámi languages in the area; northern sámi, Inari sámi and Skolt sámi.

Around 2,200 items were repatriated in the early 2020s, and the new building was designed to preserve the collection and make it accessible to locals and international visitors. Photo: Thomas Nilsen“

“We hope that this award gives us strength to continue our important repatriation work for our community. For this work, we need the support of the entire European museum community so that the artifacts of our ancestors return home to Sápmi,” said Taina Pieski and added:

“We want to thank also our ancestors for their strength, love and support.”

Located in Kirkenes, Norway, just a few kilometres from the borders to Russia and Finland, the Barents Observer is dedicated to cross-border journalism in Scandinavia, Russia and the wider Arctic.

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