Sociologist and ICMM - International Congress of Maritime Museums associate member
Suomenlinna, The Fortress of Finland, or Viapori, in old Finnish, situated on a small group of islands in front of Helsinki, is a fortress dating back to the 18th century, a shrine containing a dockyard whose main activity consists in the maintenance and restoration of traditional ships.
The Viapori experience is unique!
It’s a place where the future is built on historical foundations - a cultural heritage is kept alive for the future. Viapori is the meeting point of different human experiences that developed during the history of Finland: from the Swedish period (13th to 18th century) to the independent Finland and the end of WWII.
The Fortress is enscribed on the UNESCO’s Word Heritage List since 1991, and boasts almost three centuries of uninterrupted activity. Where once galleys and war frigates were built, today ships with historical significance are repaired or restored.
The human experience that is developed in the dockyard consists of different aspects: the sharing of personal experiences in order to reach a common goal (the ship) and the transmission of knowledge to the forthcoming generations. The heritage, which is handed over to the future generations, is not only material, but cultural, technical and emotional. It’s a knowledge belonging to the whole nation, kept alive through work and study. The transfer of heritage does not happen only in time but also geographically.
The ships come to Suomenlinna from various Finnish costal regions. Young crews learn working methods in the dockyard and take the knowledge back home. An ever-growing number of young people take interest in traditional sailing, discover its aspects, appreciate and rediscover the identity that was about to fade.
The added value of Viapori lies in its human capital, in knowledge, development and transmission of traditional work techniques used on traditional ships.