Arktikum: Arctic learning in Rovaniemi

If you want to learn about Lapland and the Arctic, Rovaniemi’s Arktikum is a fun place to start. 

I felt like a kid in a candy store, the difference being that there was no need for a bad conscience. There were just so many things to touch and play with at Rovaniemi’s Arktikum Museum and Science Centre!

Arktikum tells the story of the North in simple but engaging ways. As a visitor, you can learn both about the local history and culture of Rovaniemi in the Provincial Museum of Lapland’s permanent exhibit as well as the environmental and scientific impacts of the Arctic in Change.

Not all the information was rocket science, but sometimes the Arctic is a complicated puzzle to understand. So I LOVED that you could touch, read and play your way through exhibits explaining the Arctic’s climate, botany, animals, ice and even the indigenous people. It was a fun educational experience that didn’t feel like a school lesson – the way all learning should be, if possible.

Here are a few examples of how the exhibits conveyed information:

Build a raised oil pipeline! 

The aim of the activity was to consider the environment in the extractive industries. Tundra ecosystems are vulnerable to hydrocarbon development. Small reindeer herds are able to respond more flexibly to ecological change, so museum guests were tasked to build a raised oil pipeline that would minimise the impact for the reindeer. The yellow blocks represented the oil pipeline, and the black ball the oil that would potentially flow through the city and nature with the raised oil pipeline. The display shows how sensitive the environment is and some necessary considerations.


The reindeer herd face a new element in their ecosystem – the oil pipeline.


You are supposed to use the building blocks to create the least disruptive oil pipeline.


A raised oil pipeline will have least impact on the reindeer herd!

Climate change

Who doesn’t like playing spot the difference?  This simple sliding display showed how different glaciers in the world have evolved or melted over the years. The Muir Glacier in Alaska probably shows the most dramatic change. The first picture from 1941 shows a very icy glacier, while the second photo from 2004 shows how far the glacier has retreated due to melting of the ice.

Muir Glacier 1941

Muir Glacier 1941

Muir Glacier 2004

Muir Glacier 2004

Life in the Arctic

I think this is a trout. I cannot remember and I’m terrible with fish. Anyway, this fish is in the ‘life in the Arctic’ section. A nice living touch.


Arctic in Change

Image provided

Aquarium in the exhibit! Image provided

In another dead display, you could see the different types of animals and by pressing different buttons hear the types of sounds they make. Some of them are haunting!

Image provided

Match the sounds with the animals. Image provided

The food networks. Museum guests had to guess the food chain – who eats what and what eats who. While it was easy to deduce that the polar bear sat at the top of the food chain, it was a bit more difficult to guess whether a rabbit ate a fox… or a fox ate a rabbit. (The dry Danish humour that I hear all the time is tempting me to avoid saying that this is a joke).


The food networks

Rovaniemi in a nutshell

Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland in Finland, situated right by the Arctic circle. It’s the largest city with 60,000 inhabitants, and famous for the northern lights, Arctic research, scary Eurovision winners Lordi  and of course Santa Claus. The Sami people are the indigenous peoples of this area.

According to the locals, May (when I went) is the worst month to be a nature tourist in Rovaniemi. The snow has melted and summer hasn’t quite arrived yet. So if you’re coming to be a tourist in Rovaniemi, pick another season. There’s seven others to choose from because here in Lapland they have eight seasons! During high winter season, the crowds come for snow sports, northern lights and the highly popular Santa.

Two other museums worth visiting include Korundi, an art museum which shows Finnish contemporary art and Northern Art and Pilke Science Centre, a place where you can learn all about the forests and have the chance to see just how important they are to the Finnish people. It’s another completely interactive exhibition. Through singing karaoke and shooting virtual ducks that you learn about the Finnish environment, recycling and the logging industry.

PS Why was I actually in Rovaniemi? My purpose for being there was learn about and improve internationalisation for Ilisimatusarfik, the University of Greenland. The University is a member of two different networks: University of the Arctic (whose secretariat is housed at the University of Lapland), a cooperative of universities promoting education across the circumpolar north; and Nordlys, a Nordic group of universities who promote exchange between institutions. The visit helped to gather the necessary information and contacts that would allow us to build upon the existing opportunities in research and mobility through these networks.

Many thanks to University of Lapland in Rovaniemi who hosted the Nordlys annual meeting and my visit there. Many thanks also to Visit Rovaniemi!

2 thoughts on “Arktikum: Arctic learning in Rovaniemi

  1. Interesting! That’s way up North. I’m surprised the town is so large. How do people earn a living there other than working for the government? Mining? Oil? Forestry? Thanks for the article.

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