Harnessing the power of nature – a visit to Helsinki’s Museum of Technology

Helsinki’s Museum of Technology is, appropriately, housed in an old water treatment plant in the city’s  Viikki district.  Here the Vanhankaupunginlahti rapids thunder their way towards the sea as the river widens in to an estuary.  It is the perfect place to harness the water’s power.  The museum focusses on exhibitions relating to technology and industry in Finland from the 19th century to today, some of which are interactive and aimed at younger visitors, such as assembling an over-sized circuit board.  There is an interesting collection of black and white images of industrial workers and a large amount of artefacts, including a full bank of telephone exchanges.

When we visited in August the museum was undergoing an up-grade and was a little dishevelled inside, with some areas cordoned off, but as entry was free that day (a perk of Finland’s national Nature Day – for more of which visit my post here) this was easily ignored.

Across the river from the main hall, and contained in a collection of redbrick buildings dating from 1876, is the Power Plant Museum.  This is open only in the summer months and entry is included under the same ticket.  The plant worked as a sister to the water treatment facility, generating hydro-electricity to pump the clean water to local homes and creating steam as a reserve source of power for the purification equipment.

Much of the equipment is still in place and the scale of it is truly vast.  The heat and noise that must have been produced is hard to imagine, the only sounds a modern visitor can hear being the soft roar of the rapids and distant shouts of children from the surrounding park.  For those less interested in late Victorian machinery, the buildings themselves are a thing of stark beauty, filled with light refracting glass, carved stone and intricate metal castings, all the ingredients you need for an unusual and educational day out.


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