Time travel is possible after all.
The National Museum’s new virtual reality takes us back to 1863.

After the new virtual reality (VR) opens to the public on 13 February, you can put on glasses and move back in time at the National Museum of Finland. The VR allows you to step into R. W. Ekman’s painting “The opening of the Diet 1863 by Alexander II” and speak with the emperor and representatives of the different social classes. You can also experience the Hall of Mirrors of the former Imperial Palace, or current Presidential Palace.

The VR is displayed at the new exhibition section, which is built around the theme of 1860s Finland as an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia. The room includes the emperor’s throne, a portrait and coat of Alexander II, portraits of Finnish notables and the first Finnish coins. The aim is to build a dialogue between authentic museum artefacts and a digitally produced world to provide visitors with a real sense of being transported into history. This builds a historic moment on the artefacts that further expands the visitor experience.   

The virtual reality was produced by Zoan Oy. Zoan is the largest virtual reality studio in Finland. Its mission is to build Finland into the most virtual society in the world.

“It is a unique work even on the international level because it does more than just present events visually. We have gone a step further with history professionals, analysing what each person might have thought that day. It allows visitors to feel like they were a part of the events of the parliament session,” says Zoan CEO Miikka Rosendahl and continues: ”The project was also ground-breaking for us. We have been building the living painting since May with around twenty modellers and animators. The project has also involved voice and motion capture actors, a director and dramaturge as well as museum staff who have helped determine historical facts. I hope that, in the future, this work will be a part of Helsinki’s virtual cultural offering that people can experience from anywhere in the world.”

According to a survey commissioned by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Finnish Museums Association and carried out by Taloustutkimus (2017), Finnish museums lose to foreign museums in terms of the experiences they offer. This is an interesting challenge for the museum field, which will surely be addressed through varied digital means in the future. Methods of virtual reality and augmented reality make it possible to extend experiences past the artefacts and interest people of all ages. It is especially important to offer interesting historical experiences to young people. In 2017, nearly one in three visitors to the National Museum of Finland (approximately 45,000 people) was a child or young person. The permanent exhibitions, which were redone last year, already strongly incorporate modern technology.

Partners in the content production have included the Presidential Palace and the House of Nobility.

Created by:

Zoan Oy: Miikka Rosendahl, Jonathan Medina, Emerson Rosa, Janne Itäpiiri, Laura Ala
Voices: Emperor Alexander II: Timo Torikka, Johan Mauritz Nordenstam: Juha Svan, Aurora Karamzin: Carla Rindell, J. V. Snellman: Reidar Wasenius, Erik “Erkki” Klami: Aku Laitinen.
Actors: Male characters: Rudi Rok, Aurora Karamzin: Alina Tomnikov
Director: Lauri Laukkanen, dramaturgy: Lauri Vennonen, script: Lauri Vennonen and Laura Ala,
Sound recording: Jani Wallace/Audiospot

 The National Museum of Finland: Heikki Aittala, Hanna Forssell, Satu Frondelius, Tomi Nikander, Mari Rautiainen

Further information
National Museum of Finland, Hanna Forssell, hanna.forssell@kansallismuseo.fi, tel. +358 295 33 6475
Zoan, Laura Ala, laura.ala@zoan.fi, tel. +358 40 351 6808

Media images

Mannerheimintie 34, Helsinki

The museum is open Tuesday, Thursday to Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm, and on Wednesdays, 11 am to 8 pm, closed on Mondays.