On 21 November 2012, the Helsinki City Museum opened the Children's Town, located in the Sederholm House. This new kind of children’s museum invites children of all ages and their families to experience the history of Helsinki first-hand.
In the Children’s Town, children can play in boutiques and workshops from 18th-century Helsinki, sit at a school desk in a 1930s primary school class and visit a grandma’s home from the 1970s. Realised with help of a sizeable bequest, the Children's Town is the first part of the City Museum's new museum centre, which will be created on the corner of the Senate Square in a few years’ time. Entry to the Children's Town is free, just like all other branches of the Helsinki City Museum.
In the Children's Town, children can begin to learn through play that life was quite different in olden times. Even adults might discover their inner child and find themselves scribbling on a writing slate, dialling a number on an old telephone – and be transported to the forgotten childhood years. After all, we were all children once, some long ago and some even now. The Children’s Town encourages us to share our childhood experiences across generations.
The basement of the Children’s Town offers a peek into 18th-century Helsinki. Children can unload cargo from a trading ship, help out in a cobbler's workshop and see what it was like being a boutique assistant. Meanwhile, the classroom upstairs transports you to a 1930s primary school, where morning prayers, nail inspections, strict discipline and reading and writing practices were the norm. Upstairs you will also find items and pictures of phenomena common to children growing up in Helsinki: work, hobbies and different families whose lives children can get to know by playing with dollhouses.
Tucked away at the end of the upstairs section you will find a small and homely grandma's home from the 1970s. Everyone is welcome to reminisce and play at grandma's home, and all items can be handled. At weekends, you can share your memories with our museum grandma and grandpa. The museum’s grandmas and grandpas are the new volunteer workers of the City Museum.
The City Museum has a long tradition of children’s activities
The Helsinki City Museum was one of the first Finnish museums to introduce exhibitions for children in the 1970s and hired an educator. Children’s activities were improved in the 1990s, and the number of educators continued to grow. The Children’s Museum, opened in Tuomarinkylä in 1992, became a favourite destination for kindergartens and families alike, despite its remote location. Meanwhile, the School Museum located in Kalevankatu since 2000 offered old-fashioned school lessons to both former and current schoolchildren.
In 2010, as the financial situation of Helsinki grew tighter, the City Museum had to consolidate its operations and give up some of its premises. It was decided to concentrate the best parts of both the Children’s Museum and the School Museums in the Sederholm House, which is better accessible to the public. In the midst of the falling economic climate, the City Museum was surprised and delighted to receive a sizeable bequest from Kirsti Suvanto, a member of the museum friends association, which made the creation of the Children's Town possible.