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Finland opens museum of Contemporary Emotions to support crisis recovery

Government Communications Department
Publication date 7.10.2021 9.28
Press release 571/2021

Launched by the Prime Minister’s Office on 7 October 2021, the Museum of Contemporary Emotions seeks to help people reflect on the emotions aroused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to recover from the crisis. The museum combines science and art in recording the feelings experienced during the pandemic in Finland.

For recovery to begin, we must first face our feelings. This is the justification for the Museum of Contemporary Emotions: a virtual collection and experiential account of pandemic period emotions in Finland. The museum encourages self-reflection, helping people to find a perspective for their own feelings and experiences within the broader context of pandemic phenomena.

Museum visitors are carried along a timeline that traverses the milestones of the emergency, beginning with the WHO declaration in March 2020 that COVID-19 was a pandemic. Each milestone concerns one or more behaviours or phenomena for the visitor to consider. Following a declaration under the Emergency Powers Act, for example, some people in Finland succumbed to the recognised global phenomenon of insomnia. A pandemic baby boom also occurred that was exceptional in view of generally depressed birth rates in Finland.

Emotions have been tracked by examining statistics, search engine trends, popular consumption patterns, surveys conducted by organisations, phenomena emerging on social media and online, news and human mobility, and behaviour at milestones during the state of emergency. The museum relies on the academically rigorous emotions theory of Paul Ekman, recognising the six basic human emotions of anger, surprise, disgust, happiness, fear, and sadness.

A museum that seeks to strengthen the resilience of society

The museum project is part of the Finland Forward communications campaign co-ordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office, which seeks to support the work and resilience of people and society in crisis conditions, and in recovering from a crisis. Psychological resilience is one of the seven vital functions of society defined in Finland’s Security Strategy for Society. Experiences of being heard and seen are an important factor in maintaining psychological resilience. Speaking and expressing emotions also play a supportive role. The museum provides an opportunity for this, and thereby seeks to reinforce the resilience of society.

“The Museum of Contemporary Emotions is designed to support citizens in recovering from the crisis while recording extraordinary times in an exceptional way. Understanding and recording emotions will also help our society anticipate similar events in the future,” explains Finland Forward project Head of Communications Päivi Tampere.

MOCE is a partnership of science and art

The creative designer of the museum is the brand management company hasan & partners, with technical implementation by Into-Digital Ltd. Other partners have included researchers of phenomena and people, artists, organisations and specialist information industry businesses.

Images for the museum were provided by some 30 photographers who captured everyday life during the pandemic in Finland as part of the State of Emergency 2020 project. Works for the museum were also created by six artists who graduated during the pandemic. Heta-Linnea Kovanen, Janne Saarinen, Jenni Turunlahti, Jonna Hyttinen and Terhi Adler each interpreted one of the six basic emotions through the Summer of the Arts project, a major initiative of the Finnish Cultural Foundation in 2021 implemented by the Kulta federation of Finnish culture and arts associations.

Specialists and researchers in various fields explore the emotions behind the statistics and phenomena to support the information collected in the museum. Psychotherapist Maaret Kallio analyses the role of emotions in recovery. Psychotherapist-psychologist Suvi Laru discusses the emotional world of couples. Grief researcher Mari Pulkkinen talks about the effects of mourning and the persistence of loss. Sleep researcher Markku Partinen provides insights into sleep, insomnia and the phenomenon of COVID-19 insomnia. University of Helsinki researcher Niko Pyrhönen explains the mechanisms and emotions behind belief in conspiracy theories, and student Dan Santamäki illustrates the feelings of students during a state of emergency as a member of the board of the Student Union of the University of Tampere and chairman of its Affekti subject association for students of media studies, musicology and history of art. Riikka Nurmi, a specialist in promoting mental health in early childhood education, talks about the wellbeing of children during a state of emergency. Violence work specialist Tuulia Kovanen of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters talks about the challenges faced by homes and families in a state of emergency.

Aitomation, Google Finland Oy, Meltwater and Statistics Finland also helped to build the museum by assisting in such areas as retrieving and interpreting information. The musical soundscape of the museum was composed and produced by the internationally acclaimed composer Markku Mäkelä.

The Finnish, Swedish and English-language museums may be accessed at: nykytunteenmuseo.fi | museetfornutidskansla.fi | museumofcontemporaryemotions.fi.