Finland’s museums saw a record-breaking 8.734 million visits in 2023, based on preliminary figures from the Finnish Museum Agency. This represents a substantial increase of 1.9 million visits compared to the year before, with 76.5% of museum sites experiencing a rise in visitor numbers.

The year 2023 emerged as a historic milestone for Finnish museums, eclipsing the prior record set in 2019 by a staggering 1.1 million visits. This surge underscores a burgeoning interest in museum offerings, highlighting the public’s appetite for quality and contemporary content within these cultural institutions.

Within the scope of the agency’s survey were 152 museums overseeing 326 distinct sites, which collectively averaged 28,084 visits each. The criteria for counting these visits were specific, focusing on attendance at either exhibitions or events held within the museums’ own facilities.

Leading the pack in popularity for 2023 were five museums, with the Ateneum Art Museum topping the list at 533,961 visits, followed by the Helsinki City Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Natural Science Museum, and Amos Rex, with the latter attracting 253,627 visitors. Notably, 18 museums crossed the threshold of 100,000 visits, with the Ateneum Art Museum setting a new record for itself despite reopening only in April 2023 after extensive renovations.

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, the museum director, attributed the Ateneum’s success to several factors, including the renovated spaces and a new collection exhibition. The Albert Edelfelt exhibition, previously celebrated in Paris and Gothenburg, along with a documentary on Edelfelt, played crucial roles in drawing visitors.

The rise in museum visits was not confined to the capital but was a nationwide phenomenon, affecting nearly all regions. For instance, Kanta-Hämee saw a 39% increase in museum visits, with the Panssarimuseo in Hattula breaking its own attendance records thanks to an exhibition featuring the King Tiger tank from England.

Simo Hautala, director of the Panssarimuseo, noted that the ongoing war in Ukraine and Finland’s NATO membership bid likely fueled interest in military history, contributing to the spike in museum visits.

Recent museum openings, such as the Aalto2 museum center in Jyväskylä, the Malva visual arts museum in Lahti, and the Chappe art museum in Raasepor, also contributed to regional visitation increases. Lassi Patokorpi, director of Chappe, emphasized the importance of creating memorable experiences for visitors, combining architecture, topical exhibitions, and excellent customer service to achieve this goal.

The past decade has seen museum visits in Finland increase by more than 60%, with a particularly sharp rise noted following the dip caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, nearly 59% of museum visits were paid, underscoring the value placed on museum experiences by the public.

Tiina Merisalo, Director General of the Finnish Museum Agency, praised the record-breaking attendance figures as indicative of the museums’ quality and the public’s changing engagement patterns. However, she also highlighted the broader role of museums in society, from cultural preservation to promoting societal well-being and resilience.

The Finnish Museum Agency will release comprehensive statistics for 2023 in June 2024, offering a detailed view of the sector’s performance across various domains, including public engagement, online services, and financial health. This preliminary report, based on data submitted by the museums, is available on the Museotilasto.fi web service, offering an early glimpse into the thriving state of Finland’s museum landscape.

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