Opening at the Helsinki City Museum on 15 October 2021, the Dear Tallinn – Stories of our Neighbour exhibition examines the relationship of Helsinkians with the neighbouring city of Tallinn. The warm-hearted exhibition lets the Helsinkians themselves do the talking, featuring pictures and stories collected from residents. The treasured, fun – and sometimes even slightly embarrassing – memories stretch all the way from the 1980s to the present, introducing visitors to different parts of Tallinn, historical events and the rapidly changing cityscape.
The Helsinki City Museum's new exhibition, Dear Tallinn – Stories of our Neighbour, offers a glimpse into the photo albums and travel diaries of the people of Helsinki. These memories of trips to Tallinn depict tales of the radical Rock Summer 1988 concert, shady taxi rides towards the outskirts of the city, and sweating in front of officious customs officers while tobacco cartons stick out from under the coat. The latest stories from the time of the pandemic convey a deep longing for our dear neighbour. Memories from different decades paint several pictures of the Finnish traveller: a ‘reindeer’ strutting in the Viru hotel lobby, a brave sailor crossing the Gulf of Finland or an aficionado of Estonian language and culture. On the other hand, they also tell a larger story of the difficult conditions in Soviet Estonia, the restoration of the country’s independence and its transformation towards a modern technological society.
Trips have been made from Helsinki to Tallinn throughout the ages. After the wars, there were some quiet decades, but in the late 1980s, political changes in the Soviet Union and increased ship traffic once again made Finns a visible part of Tallinn’s cityscape. The people of Helsinki have maintained a close relationship with Tallinn, although the reasons for their trips have changed over time. Instead of alcohol tourism, more and more Helsinki residents are travelling across the Gulf of Finland for work, studies, love or culture.
‘It has been great to see the variety of stories that people have wanted to tell about Tallinn. The stories that are full of humour and great emotion will make you laugh and cry, as well as surprise you. What many of the memories have in common is that they reflect a warm relationship with the city beyond the gulf and its people,’ says the exhibition’s producer Rania Taina.
The Dear Tallinn exhibition will open on 15 October on the fourth floor of the museum, which is dedicated to temporary exhibitions. The concept of the space on the fourth floor involves an experimental approach and the expansion of the idea of a museum with evocative content, which can consist of exhibitions, events or experiences. The exhibition architecture, which makes use of audiovisual and active elements, was designed by Sampo Pyhälä. Samppa Ranta is responsible for the graphic design of the exhibition.
The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the Tallinn City Museum and the Finnish Institute in Estonia to mark the 30th anniversary of the Estonian restoration of independence. The partner exhibition, SoomEST vabaduse viise otsimas 1961–91 (Searching Finland for songs of freedom), is held at the Tallinn City Museum from 14 August 2021 to 29 September 2022, and the complementary poster exhibition TALSINKI ühised mälestused (Shared memories) was on display in Tammsaare Park from 1 August to 30 September 2021.
Dear Tallinn – Stories of our Neighbour
15 October 2021–27 February 2022
Helsinki City Museum, 4th floor
Image: On the deck of the Georg Ots in 1984. Photo: Antti Eirola